Friday, May 15, 2009

Are Speeches by Foreign Leaders in the Public Domain?

Dear Rich: Are speeches given by leaders in other countries in the public domain or are they owned by the government of that particular country? I'm so glad you asked. The short answers to your questions are "It depends on the country," and "It depends on the country." You're probably already aware that speeches by U.S officials are in the public domain as are works created by federal employees in the course of their employment (with one exception). On that basis, feel free to create your own Bush/Clinton mash-up (watch your volume). However, you can't do the same with Tony Blair's speeches as prime minister. Those are protected under Crown Copyright, as are government works in most British commonwealth nations. Crown copyright is subject to a number of exceptions, and those exceptions vary country-to-country. Some other nations (and the U.N.) also reserve the rights to their leaders' pronouncements. We're not sure why you're asking the question, but if you're considering republishing these speeches for purposes of scholarly analysis, criticism or other commentary, the Dear Rich staff feels that it's likely that a fair use defense will protect your U.S. publication. (Note: We're only discussing the use of the speech itself, not television coverage, which triggers additional copyrights.) Anyway, all that legal stuff aside, you'll probably be able to get away with a Tony Blair mashup, too.