Copyright, libel, privacy… these are complicated legal and ethical issues that many yearbook staffs ponder every year and often don’t ever fully grasp the way they should. Thanks to Walsworth’s newest eBook, Media Law and Ethics for Yearbook Journalists, that no longer has to be the case. Media Law and Ethics provides a condensed overview…
When it comes to libel, the law does not have a sense of humor.
A doctored photograph showing a classmate exiting a pornographic bookstore may be meant as a joke, but when the boy’s mother sees it in the yearbook, she will not be laughing. Neither will the court.
First, the work must be original. This means that the author must have shown at least a small spark of creativity when he made the work. For example, your school’s cheerleading squad could not claim the copyright to a cheer that has been used by other schools, even if they changed words to reflect your team and school name. Second, the work must be “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” This “fixation” requirement means that only works preserved in a tangible form (a book, a newspaper, a video, a CD-ROM disk, etc.) – as opposed to those existing entirely in an artist’s mind – will receive copyright protection.