Institute of Fundraising: Introducing the guidelines on copyright and plagiarism

Plagiarism and copyright are key concerns for many fundraisers and fundraising organisations. If you produce a fundraising strategy for one organisation and then move to another place of work, can you take that document with you? If you are given handouts at a training course, can you share this document with your colleagues? What legislation applies in these circumstances?

Intellectual property rights cover the ownership of intangible materials such as designs, artwork, printed works and computer programs. Trademarks, patents and registered designs do need to be registered with the Patent Office, but some rights arise automatically when individuals or organisations produce intellectual property. Copyright, design and database rights can all be protected without the need for official registration.

Copyright exists as soon as a work is created and is usually owned by the author(s) of the work. The date and author of any work should be recorded as confirmation of copyright ownership. If the author is an employee and the document is produced in a working capacity, the copyright usually belongs to their employer. Authors can assign the rights to somebody else, either by sale or gift, but they must receive payment or transfer the rights by deed for the new ownership to be legally binding.

It is important to consider intellectual property and copyright early in any relationship with a third party - a volunteer or a consultant, for example - as copyright will default to them. If what they create is capable of attracting copyright, an assignment to the charity or a licence permitting the charity to use the materials should be agreed at the outset.

If you wish to use copyrighted material, permission must be sought from the owner, and you should enter into a written licence agreement. It is sometimes permissible to use copyright material without seeking permission: for private study or non-commercial research purposes; for criticism or review - providing the source is credited; or for education. If in any doubt, it's best to check with the owner.

There is no requirement to show copyright ownership in the UK, but use of the (C) symbol, together with the name of the individual/organisation and date of publication, can help secure international protection. Copyright exists for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.

When an individual passes off another person's work as their own, it is plagiarism. If it is an infringement of copyright, the owner may seek an injunction against use of the material. If the use involves commercial exploitation, it may also be a criminal offence.

More detailed guidance is available on the Institute's website.

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