Don't miss
  • 2,232
  • 6,844
  • 6097
  • 134

The Scottish Parliament claims copyright over my work. How can this be right?

By on October 11, 2010

A couple of months ago, I asked if I should contribute to the Scottish Parliament’s enquiry into video game tax breaks.

I decided to contribute, and sent in a submission explaining why I opposed them. You can read that submission (and a dozen others) at the Video Games in Scotland enquiry page.

Which is what made this letter that I received on Friday so extraordinary.

Inquiry: Video Games Industry in Scotland

8 October 2010

Dear Mr Lovell

Thank you for your written submission relating to the Committee’s inquiry.

Once submitted and accepted as evidence, written submissions become the property of the Committee (my emphasis), and it is up to the Committee to decide the manner and timing of its publication or to authorise publication. If you wish to make your submission available to the press or to publish it elsewhere you should contact me and I will put your request before the Committee.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to publish the written submissions it receives. Written submissions may be published at an early stage via the internet or published at a later stage (in hard copy or on the internet) alongside the Committee’s report and the record of public hearings. If witnesses are called to a public hearing, copies of their written submissions will usually be made available to press and public at the hearing, and will thereafter be treated as in the public domain.

Please be aware that publication will include publishing individual’s names, and any personal references which are contained in the submission. This information will be on the internet and will be searchable. However, contact details will be removed. Should you consider part or all of your submission to be private and confidential, please contact us immediately.

Alternatively, the Committee may choose to make the written submissions available through the Parliamentary Archives. Material already published elsewhere, which is simply sent to the Committee for information (referred to by the Committee as ‘background papers’), will not normally be reprinted by the Committee.

I will ensure that you receive the press notices giving details of the inquiry’s progress, and a copy of the report and evidence once it is published.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

I was totally gobsmacked. According to the Select Committee Assistant, simply by the act of sending an email to the Select Committee I automatically and irrevocably agree to assign my copyright to the Select Committee, such that they can prevent me from reusing my own work elsewhere.

That can’t be right.

Nowhere on the page where the Enquiry asked for evidence did they say that this was the case. Nowhere in the Copyright section on the website does it say this is the case. I submitted my proposal via email, so I can’t have been caught by what Dr Ben Goldace calls Bogus Agreements in a web form that I inadvertently accepted.

I don’t believe anyone should have the right to retrospectively declare that they own my copyright. I’ve written to the Select Committee to confirm if that’s what they really mean.

But what do you think? Is my interpretation right?

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: