Q&A with Erin Best of Stewart McKelvey

erin_best_headshot-2015-03Do you know the difference between trademarks and copyrights? Is that unpublished story you have kicking around protected by law? Whether you’re penning the next great Canadian novel or have just composed a grand concerto, you and your creations have value. But do you know your rights as an artist? Erin Best, songstress and lawyer with Stewart McKelvey, will tackle these topics and more during a session on intellectual property (IP) law on February 29 at St. John’s City Hall (Foran-Greene Room). Business & Arts NL recently caught up with Erin via email to chat about the basics.

Business & Arts NL: From your experience, what is the most common question that artists have regarding intellectual property law?

Erin Best: Depends on the context. Painters often want to know if they can copy a photograph taken by someone else and conversely, photographers want to know what to do if their photographs have been copied. Photographers and filmmakers often want to know if they can take photos of scenes including the artistic works or trademarks of others. Authors want to know if their publishing agreements are fair and what the clauses mean. Musicians want to understand the landscape of royalties that are available to them. They also want band agreements and distribution agreements, label agreements and sync or mechanical licenses. Film, theatre and authors of literary works want to know about purchasing the rights to somebody else’s life story. Everyone wants to know what fair dealing is and how it impacts them.

Business & Arts NL: What’s one of the most important things an artist needs to know when it comes to protecting his or her own creations?

EB: The basics of copyright law.

Business & Arts NL: Are enough artists taking advantage of the protections that exist out there?

EB: Certainly not in NL. They are also often infringing the works of others. In other places, where the arts are considered to be a more valid profession, and artists on the whole act more professionally, there is a more widespread understanding of the law.

Business & Arts NL: For the most part, do you think artists know their rights, or is more education needed in this area?

EB: In my experience, there are many artists in NL who know very little about IP. I think it is very unusual that many NL artists/musicians/authors/filmmakers/playwrights are very serious about their work but very flippant when it comes to intellectual property (IP) rights. They are confident geniuses when they approach creation but they shy away from understanding the crucial IP element. In many cases I think this fear of IP undermines their confidence and prevents NL artists from enjoying national and international success. This needn’t be.

For more information on Erin’s session “Intellectual Property Law” click here.