This is the first in a series of Q&As I’m conducting with leaders from different fields. First up…@copyrightgirl (aka Emily Goodhand, Copyright & Compliance Officer at the University of Reading) and we talk about her career as well as, of course, all things copyright, Intellectual Property and compliance related.
Ok Emily, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do…
Well, I’m currently the Copyright & Compliance Officer at the University of Reading and have been in this role for just over three years. My job involves a variety of different things, from writing policies to delivering training to staff and students on copyright issues. I’d say I spend a good proportion of my time answering enquiries from staff / students and preparing training materials for the courses that I run.
What inspired you to become a Copyright Officer?
Funnily enough, when I was a librarian I always avoided dealing with copyright licences for photocopying and off-air recording of broadcasts! However, I did end up managing the software for the college I worked at, and this involved handling the software licences, identifying how many copies we were allowed to install, and so on. But my career path came about when a former supervisor of mine contacted me out of the blue one day and invited me to a copyright seminar he was chairing in Manchester, and I jumped at the opportunity to attend something which would challenge me intellectually. About a week later, he told me of a position going at the University of Reading for a Copyright Officer and encouraged me to apply; I had very little knowledge of copyright by that point and told him I didn’t have a hope! He insisted that I could build on my experience of licensing and learn about copyright. So I applied, and was thrilled when they offered me the job!
Haha no not at all! I was doing some research into social media sites’ terms and conditions, and I only created a Twitter profile to check them really… how sad is that?! I’d heard about Twitter from friends but didn’t really get it; I already had a Facebook account and so didn’t want something that duplicated my activity there. I didn’t want ‘Emily Goodhand’ to be my username so I came up with @copyrightgirl because I’m female and I work in copyright! I made the decision to use the site for professional purposes, so I started following anyone who was talking about copyright and Intellectual Property, and it’s just grown from there. Someone on Twitter suggested I blog about an item that I had tweeted, and so my blog was born! I am ashamed to say that I don’t update my blog as much as I’d like to – time has run away from me this year but I hope to be back soon.
UK Copyright law is a complex beast – why does it fascinate you so much?
I’m not sure that it’s copyright law alone that is complex; I actually think it is digital technology and the Internet along with the harmonisation with EU copyright law that have introduced a lot of grey areas, making the law more difficult to interpret. I enjoy an intellectual challenge and I love the practical implementation of the law; to me, this is the reason the law exists. The law is continually open to interpretation, and it’s always interesting to see similar cases which end up with opposing outcomes.
You’re quite an expert in all things copyright, yet you’re not a copyright lawyer…how have you learned so much?
I read 🙂 a lot! Early on in my role I attended a lot of training sessions and learnt a lot from many experienced copyright and IP experts. I’ve also read a lot of books on the subject, and I’ve gradually accumulated a lot of practical knowledge through dealing with copyright issues and enquiries which crop up in my job. I’ve really benefited from attending tweet-ups and legal events where I’ve had the privilege of meeting and networking with many actual lawyers that I’ve been able to talk copyright with. And I try to keep on top of significant case law as much as possible by reading court rulings and decisions, as well as the swathes of public policy from both the UK and EU around copyright and potential reform.
Together with Steve Kuncewicz and a few others, we were behind the launch of Communicate Magazine’s one-stop digital shop for copyright related issues: CommsCopyright. Why did you want to become involved in this?
I think it’s a really good idea; copyright confuses and often frightens a lot of people, and guidance on the topic is scattered around the web (although there are many excellent resources out there). Having a one-stop shop seemed to me to be a useful educational tool and I was keen to support it. Court cases keep throwing people into confusion over what they can and can’t do, when they need a licence to do something, and so on, and so it’s useful to have somewhere to go to read up about copyright cases and learn from a number of experts. Obviously, opinions vary, but that’s the beauty of copyright; it’s all about debate and discussion.
Is UK Copyright law fit for purpose?
In the digital age? Not especially, in my view. Some of the provisions, particularly for education, do not apply in this day and age where technology is an integral part of teaching, and I think that this needs to be amended so that educators can do their jobs without the added worry that they might infringe copyright unwittingly.
Do you think UK Copyright law will ever catch up with the digital world we now live in?
Well, the EU have a Digital Agenda which stretches out as far as 2020, and there are some very vocal people within the EU such as Neelie Kroes who are calling for changes to the 2001 Copyright Directive. I’d like to think that it will eventually, but some changes will need to be made before then, for example the use of more neutral wording relating to methods (such as “non-reprographic”). My only concern is that the formation and passing of law takes a very long time, whereas the creation and updating of digital technologies happens extremely quickly; I think this would have to be addressed before the law could truly match digital’s pace.
How do you combine working at the University of Reading, networking, Twitter and your blog into one day?!
I’m good at multi-tasking… 😉 Technologies such as TweetDeck make Twitter infinitely easier to use whilst at work; I’ll check it periodically and receive 5 minute updates in the corner of my screen. Very handy!
And last of all, what’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I sleep with my iPhone next to me, so the first thing I do in the morning is check Twitter, check Facebook, check emails…what did I do before my smartphone?! I like to stay connected, both professionally and socially; I’d say I’m very much a people-person and really enjoy interacting with people, even more so now I have the technology which allows me to do that on a regular basis!
Thanks for your time, Emily – much appreciated!