You might not think it, but copyright is a major part of when it comes to credit unions. As the U.S. government states, under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression has all the rights toward what he or she has said in the disclaimer. So, when another person comes and tries to use that same artwork, it falls under the copyright infringement act.
Some Forms of Copyright Laws to Look Out For In Your Credit Union:
- Public Performing Right in the Credit Union Industry
- Reproduction Right Tips for Credit Unions
1. Public Performing Right
Under the U.S. Copyright Law, a “public performance of music is defined to include any music played outside an accustomed circle of friends and family, which means every business including credit unions must receive permission from the copyright owners of the music they are playing before it can be played publicly.” So the next time you hold an annual meeting or event, make sure to get a public performance license that gives you permission to play the songs in public, online, or on the radio. You might wonder, “How do I attain a public performance license?” I’m here to tell you, that there are three agencies that handle all the licensing in the United States: ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
The reason every credit union should gravitate toward getting any advertisements, company jingles, or any video songs licensed is because your credit union should be branded and have a clear vision to serve the credit union’s community. Having the security of your own creative license will allow you to stand out. If anyone were to use your public performing rights, they will be subject to infringement.
You might think, “Why does a credit union need on-hold music or a jingle?” Well, because this is an excellent marketing strategy for not only your current members, but also future members. After we hear a jingle so many times, it starts to become stuck in our heads and we begin to sing it automatically. Or if a song starts playing and it sounds like the credit union jingle, that person will connect the dots on where it came from. It is all a mind trick, so one must be smart about creating something that could potentially get many possible members to unexpectedly sing your jingle.
2. Reproduction Right
The reproduction right is a valuable right to have for all copyright owners. Under this right, no person other than the copyright owner can make any reproductions or copies of the work according to the U.S. Copyright Law. Unjustified copying by others even if it is not the entire work, results in infringement.
Soaring the internet for further research, Credit Union Times states that, “At least five credit unions across the country are tussling in federal court over allegations that their names and slogans are too similar to competitors’ trademarks — or in some cases, over allegations that the competitors are the ones infringing on credit union trademarks, according to court documents.” Intellectual property infringement could put your credit union on an unnecessary legal path, such as copying lending forms from forms providers. Protect your credit union, members, and staff. Work with a licensed vendor and get your work licensed!
Now, let’s bring design into this standpoint. When creating a logo, a designer must research and explore many logos that have already been used. Getting the feel for what types of logos are out there is just as important, as it allows for your brain juices to flow. When everything is justified with a particular logo you create, make sure you register the copyright so no one can take your design. Same thing goes for slogans. YOU NEED TO claim your trademark! An example that can be used to explain this further is Nike. You can’t take their slogan “Just Do It” and add it to your company’s site, claiming it’s yours. Since Nike has registered their trademark, they can sue you for statutory damages, which can go up to $150,000 for each infringement of copyright. Basically, make sure to get any of your company artwork registered as a trademark. Just as Nike and a bunch of other companies have done it, being able to protect your work can save you a lot of headache. No one wants to see your competitor’s logo look the same as yours.
An example of trademark infringement is when Truliant Federal Credit Union filed a lawsuit against Truist, a bank whose name was formed from a proposal to merge with BB&T and Sun Trust Banks. “This is a clear infringement on our name, and their proximity to our main business region will confuse consumers and undermine the trust we have built in our institution,” Truliant President Todd Hall said in a statement. “As a member-owned cooperative and community leader, it is very important for consumers to be able to make this distinction,” Hall said. The outcome turned into a positive by both parties working together to resolve the issue stated. While Truliant has been branded since 1999, it will give Truist a chance to create their own brand before a decision is made. Be careful in what names you pick, because when having a similar name, members and consumers can get confused. Have the mindset of, “What can I do to make this company unique and original?”
A few other examples of what is prohibited under this right include copying another credit union’s content and sharing it as their own, taking another person’s photo and claiming it as their own, and copying forms’ content directly from businesses, such as credit unions. The same thing goes for any sort of credit union vendor. If your credit union is changing vendors, make sure to not copy exclusive types of information. The right to use intellectual property such as marketing strategies or lending document contracts would end as soon as your contract expires.
Here Are Some Tips To Avoid Copyright Infringement For Your Credit Union:
According to Quick Facts within the U.S., “88.4% of copyright/trademark offenses involved infringement amounts of $1 million or less. 55.8% of copyright/trademark offenses involved infringement amounts of $120,000 or less.”
- Look for “Fair Use” on materials, which is often associated with education.
- Verify materials with the
- And as some say... “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck.” Check with your legal or compliance department before you proceed.
Unfortunately, lawsuits are formed every day within the business world. There are benefits to having a copyright, and they are:
- Transparency & Clarity
In compliant marketing, as you start promoting your credit union’s low rates, you may be allowed to use “APY” as abbreviated in larger print to make your bank advertising easier to read. The actual term itself, “annual percentage yield,” must be spelled out elsewhere. Credit union strategies and messages should be original. Don’t forget to state “This credit union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration,” or the short version, “Federally insured by NCUA.”
Oak Tree Business Systems, Inc. has helped many credit unions stay by providing forms and disclosures for over 35 years. Our legal staff reviews all forms requiring state and/or federal compliance, and issues legal opinion letters for these forms in all 50 states. We also provide marketing compliance support.
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