Monday, June 10, 2013

Google Doodle of the Day - Copyright Licensing

Today's Google doodle features Maurice Sendak's beloved story Where the Wild Things Are. If you represented Google and the doodle team comes to you asking if they can incorporate the story art into a doodle, what's the answer?

Like all good attorneys, the answer is "maybe." You'd first have to search to find out who owns the copyrights in the book. It could be Mr. Sendak's estate, an heir to which he willed his copyrights (because intellectual property is descendible), the book publisher, or anyone to who the copyright was assigned. The next question might be whether the rights-holder has already encumbered the copyright so that your client's intended use would interfere with someone else's license. You'll also need to understand contract law fundamentals like indemnification so that you can draft appropriate clauses to protect your client in case the rights-holder gets it wrong and you get sued by another licensee.

We have several copyright licensing books and guidance in the library; it may be worth a quick look before the questions arise when you get that in-house job. But knowing all of that won't be enough if you don't have your business contacts' trust and can rely on them to make the request to use the Sendak art far enough in advance to allow you to negotiate any licenses you need. For more on the role of corporate counsel, check out the following: