Thursday, 29 January 2015

The protection of artistic works and the myths behind copyright

Oh, the endless debate to copyright law and artistic works, but should it really be so vague? When reading online it seems you can hear conflicting viewpoints all over the place, but a simple qualified check can be the answer to solving many of the myths associated with copyright and 'art'.

So here are some FACTS when dealing with copyright law, taken from the International Berne Convention of which the US, the UK and many other countries are a member of.

So what is the Berne Convention?
The Berne Convention is for the protection of Literary and Artistic Works and was adopted in 1886 as an international agreement to protect the rights of authors who are nationals of the countries who are members of the convention. You can find the full list of country members here.

So what rights are protected?
An author or designer from any of these countries within the convention is awarded the same rights, of which cannot be carried out without permission, and these include;
  • The exclusive right to reproduce the work, (though some provisions are made under national laws which typically allow limited private and educational use without infringement).
  • The right to authorise translations of the work
  • The right to authorise public performance or broadcast, and the communication of broadcasts and public performances
  • The right to authorise arrangements or other types of adaptation to the work
  • Recitation of the work, (or of a translation of the work)
  • The exclusive right to adapt or alter the work
An author or designer from any of these countries within the convention is also awarded moral rights, of which include;
  • The author has the right to claim authorship
  • The right to object to any treatment of the work which would be ‘prejudicial to his honour or reputation
The last point is an interesting one, because those who argue that their own copyright laws are different, and can do what they like with finished items made from a designer's work, may fall fowl of this moral right. Reproducing work from a design and reproducing it, in what the designer may consider, low quality may have a case that their reputation has been damaged.

MYTHS

There are many myths that circulate the internet from those who wish to profit from designers work, and argue that they can do so regardless but these are often warped viewpoints from wishful thinking, a few of which are;

Everything on the internet is in the 'public domain' and thus free to use.

No, this is a common misunderstanding. A work only falls into the public domain when the copyright expires, typically many years after the author's death. While work published on the Internet may be publicly accessible, it is certainly not in the public domain.

Anything without a copyright notice is not protected

Copyright will apply whether there is a copyright notice or not. In the US, a notice was required to retain copyright on works published before January 1st 1978, but this was the exception not the norm, and is certainly no longer the case. Also, once the US signed up to the Berne convention, US law was amended, and the use of copyright notices became optional on work published from March 1st 1989

Having said this, it is still certainly worth placing a copyright notice on your work. A copyright notice reminds others that copyright exists, and may therefore help to deter infringement..

If I change someone else’s work I can claim it as my own

This is restricted. Any adaptation will be legally regarded as a derived work; so if you simply adapt the work of others, it will still be their work, and they have every right to object if publish such a work when they have not given you permission to do so. They are also entitled to reclaim any money you make from selling their work.

So the advice is always to create something unique and original, it can still be inspired by the original work, or seek permission from the rights owner however this may incur a fee or royalties.

I can legally copy 10% without it being infringement

No. Unless it is explicitly allowed under fair use or fair dealing rules, any unauthorised use of copyright work can potentially lead to legal action.

It’s OK to use copy or publish other peoples work if I don't make any money out of it

You may be surprised to know that again, no you cannot except in specific circumstances permitted under fair dealing/fair use rules. Any copying or publication without the consent of the copyright owner is an infringement, and you could face legal action and a claim for damages to reclaim lost revenue and royalties.

It’s hard to prove copyright infringement (so I'll be ok)

This is not the case, copyright law is principally civil not criminal law. Civil law requires a lower burden of proof, actually making it easier to prove infringement. In a criminal case, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case, the plaintiff must simply convince the court or tribunal that their claim is valid, and that on balance of probability it is likely that the defendant is guilty.

Final points

Ultimately it will come down to the individual circumstances between the plaintiff (the designer) and the guilty party, and the final decision of the judge's rule, and even then many copyright infringements are settled out of court, but it is always advisable to err on the side of caution when reproducing a creator's original work without permission in ANY form.

This information has been taken from the UK Copyright Service.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

How to promote your YouTube channel and get subscribers

I often get asked "How do I get subscribers?", but it's not something I have ever worried about. I was only interested in sharing what I do, the rest was a by-product.

As some of you know I run my own YouTube channel all about learning to crochet and sharing crochet patterns I have designed and you do pick up a few things along the way, especially now I have over 100,000 subscribers, but there isn't really an exact science, you just need to do what you love and that will shine through, but that said I can share a few simple tips to hopefully help you get subscribers and people that matter interested in your videos.

I say 'people that matter' because although some channel marketers will have you believe (and charge you to tell you how) it isn't always best to just get views, from just anybody. It does matter. If your channel is about something in particular, like for example crocheting, then it's great if someone does pop by and watch your tutorial, but if they have no interest in crochet then they won't stick around for long and watch it, let alone subscribe to your channel. So what do you do...

Stick to your subject matter

Well, the first thing to think about when you start a YouTube channel is to think about what your channel will be about. It doesn't matter who your audience will be as long as that audience is interested in what you're talking about so let's take crochet for example. Your audience could be anyone, from teenagers to grandmothers, but you need to stick to videos that relate to your chosen genre so if you plan to do tutorials, do tutorials! be limited in your vlogging about your cat or filming your friend doing silly tricks as you will begin to alienate your crochet audience.

A lot of successful YouTubers will separate their vlogs from their main channel, for example the ASMR community. ASMR videos are basically relaxation videos (definitely worth checking out if you suffer from insomnia!) but what I am saying is that a subscriber will assume that all videos from that contributor will be relaxing so suddenly watching a loud vlog will be a little off-putting, so many YouTubers start separate channels just for their vlogs, so I highly recommend this if you love to do a lot of vlog videos as well as your normal theme. If you just plan to do vlogs now and then such as an update about your channel, then I wouldn't worry so much about putting them all on one channel.

Content is key, not views

Now you have your channel subject in mind the next stage is to make your video. I cannot stress enough that you should not worry about views, thumbs up or thumbs down, but your content. Your video content is the most important thing to worry about. Good lighting, good backgrounds and good camera quality are key to a good video no matter what the subject matter is, even if it's just talking gibberish!

You can pick up a simple HD camera these days, which will do a reasonable job quality wise and if you can't afford professional lighting then film on a bright day, or at least in the day time. Avoid when it's dark and avoid filming outside if you don't have to, as the wind can cause havoc on your audio if you don't have the right equipment.

I could write a whole blog post about what makes for good content, but that will be down to you and your subject matter and it would only be my opinion. All I can suggest is if you plan to do tutorials then try and make sure that what you are teaching can be seen, even I have failed in the past to remember to keep my hands in camera shot! And try not to get sidetracked by others things, try and stick to what you want to talk about and show what you have to clearly and efficiently.

Make your video title and tags relevant

The next point is the title name of your video. If your video is about crochet and is a tutorial then put that in the title. For example if you made a crochet tutorial about how to crochet a cat then your title should be similar to that; 'how to crochet a cat'. If the video is for beginners, then put 'for beginners' so your audience knows. What you should not do is just type 'how to make a cat' as that could mean anything from cooking a cake that looks like a cat to making a toy cat out of play-doh, which means people can come to that video expecting it to be about baking because they have just watched a lot of baking videos and when they find out it is about crochet, they may be annoyed. Obviously you can't please everyone but it is good to try and prevent confusion where you can.

The same goes for the tags you add to your video. Firstly I may be stating the obvious but do actually add tags to begin with. People still sometimes don't bother adding tags but if YouTube don't know what your video is about then they don't know how to share your video to relevant viewers so your video could pop up in all manner of strange places on YouTube and YouTube is a big place!

Also think about your tags. Coming back to the 'how to crochet a cat' video, don't just put 'cat' and leave it at that, also add 'how to' (which should bring up a tag suggestion from YouTube for that genre, and 'crochet'. Maybe add 'tutorial' 'beginners' etc etc really describe your video in as many words as you can that are relevant. Avoid putting unrelated words such as 'yarn' or 'knitting' as yes, they may be similar subjects but they don't relate to your video, and of course check your spelling!

The right way to share your video

On occasions I get videos emailed to me, often completely unrelated to what my videos are about. I fail to understand why someone would think I would want to watch someone falling asleep in a cake however funny that may sound to the person who took the video but people will do this. I don't recommend it, firstly it is spamming people and will probably just get you a thumbs down if people can even be bothered to click on the link to go and watch your video. More than likely it will just waste your time and get you limited views.

If you haven't already, work on that Google+ page or Facebook page, share on those social media channels. If you have Etsy listings for products then add your YouTube channel there, share it on Twitter, place an embedded version on your website. Then the right people will see your videos because they are already interested in your subject matter and are more likely to stick around. If you are sharing knitting or crochet tutorials then share them via Ravelry.

The most important thing to remember is things take time. If your videos are any good, people will find them and stick around, just be patient and concentrate on making good videos. The more videos you have the more you will be found. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Link and link again

The last point I wish to share is about links and how to promote your channel within your channel. At the end of each of my videos I promote my previous video with a link to that video, which viewers can click on. Some YouTubers also link to other videos at the end too. You can add all these links under 'edit' and 'annotations'. This is a great way to show what else your channel has to offer if someone has only come across that video and don't follow you.

Also adding a subscribe link to your channel on each video can be useful, a simple Google search will tell you how to do this. Also add links in your description box to your social media channels and in your video too to your website if you have one. You can even edit in your Etsy shop name or blog URL, which can sit quietly in the corner of each video throughout the video if you like. So link, link and link again, but don't shove it in people's faces, make it subtle and useful to your viewers so they can click about and see what else your channel has to offer. It takes time especially when editing takes time already but you get out what you put in as they say.

Think about what you like and dislike

It may seem obvious but think about what you find useful when watching a YouTube video and copy the promotional ideas that you like and avoid doing what you find annoying. If you find it annoying that big flashy text appears in a video constantly, or the video is too dark and unclear then don't copy those mistakes. Have a look around YouTube at similar content creators to what you do and avoid their mistakes and improve on what they do. Also try and think about how to be different and what can make your channel unique to similar channels.

Never assume .. ass out of me whatever that saying is

A quick tip also is that never assume people know what you are talking about (like I just did). For example if you talk about your website, make the link appear in the video and/or add a link in the description and say it is in the description so people know where to look. If you want to talk about another video you have created, again link to it, don't just say 'it's on my channel' as people won't be bothered to hunt it down.

Entice people to watch

Another useful tip is to tempt people with your video at the beginning or at least warn them off quick. Some people choose to start their videos with an advert about their channel, showing their logo or channel name (which can also drag on and bore your viewers before they've had time to even think about watching your video). This is fine if it's quick but what I like to do is to start the video immediately, stating what the video is about and then add the channel advert, again keeping it short. This way you entice people in to your video, show them clearly what it is about and you've given them a general indication to the quality of the video and who you are. Hopefully then people will stick around to watch the rest of the video. You can always add a longer advert at the end of the video if you like by which time hopefully people are delighted with your content and feel saddened that it has ended. Oh how we can dream! (^-^)

Also start thinking about a promotional channel video. By this I mean film a specific video about what your channel is about and add it to your YouTube channel home page. State clearly in this video what you do, why you do it and what people can expect from your channel. Look happy, film it well with good lighting, audio and if you can, in HD and throw some music in to the background, not too loud as people want to hear you and away you go! A little effort can go a long way. Also when YouTube ask you if you want your channel promoted for free with 'fan finder', which may or may not be available to you yet, you have a specific video to send them.

Upload regularly

Lastly, if you can, start a regular theme, but only if you can follow through with your actions. If you say you're going to start a weekly upload then do just that, but before you commit think carefully about the time involved in doing this. It can be a great way for people to enjoy your channel and stick around as they can look forward to a regular video but if you don't fulfill your promise then people can become disappointed and disillusioned with your channel, which can be counter productive to what you are trying to achieve.

Most of all just have fun and look or sound like you enjoy doing what you do! (^-^)

Being your own boss and what to expect

Many people email me asking for advice on how to start their own crochet business. The short answer is usually just do what you love and the rest will fall into place, but the long answer will definitely require a little more advice on what to expect.

This post isn't so much about how to start your own business, you can read a post I wrote about that here if you would like, but more on what to expect and what you will need to think about skill set wise. Any areas you don't have skills in you will have to think about outsourcing those roles to someone else, which can incur costs.

The Designer

I often believe that the best days of starting your business and being your own boss is preparing to start, as your only job role at this time is designer. At this time you are only thinking about your product, but you will soon find that you will need to develop skills in sales and marketing as you begin to think about how you will sell your product. The questions you need to ask yourself are;

1. Who is your target market?
2. What means of selling will I do? i.e craft shows or online, if online, what websites?
3. How will I get my name about?
4. What will your brand identity be and will I have a logo? Will it be your name or a company name?

and lastly;

5. THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE!

I say 'think about the future' because companies develop over time, change and merge into different things. What you are selling today may not be what you are selling tomorrow, will your brand identity be able to move with you? I know quite a few people who have set up a Facebook page and then wished they could change the name of the page, which can be hard to do, so think now what you want to be in 5 years time as best as you can.

IT, Sales and Marketing Manager

Once you've wrapped up your initial launch marketing campaign you will quickly find you will need some IT skills because now comes the time when you will need to think about setting up social media pages, or a website or an Etsy shop. You will need an email address that is suitable for your business. If you have brought a domain name such as www.craftwebsitenamehere.com then you should get some free email addresses with that domain i.e bettysmith@craftwebsitenamehere.com.

If you don't have any IT skills and are daunted by this prospect then now is the time to ask the IT guru nephew or get a web agency in to help you. I warn you though, web agencies who build websites are expensive and start-up costs in a business should always be kept to a minimum in case you fail! Of course you don't plan to fail but it's something you need to think about. Every initial start-up cost is eating into your profits before you have even begun so if you are not good with IT and don't have an IT literate nephew, then now is the time to get studying the ins and outs of advertising online. A simple Google search will bring up lots of help pages and articles on what you need to know.

Customer Services

So now you have become the designer, the saleswoman, the marketing manager and the IT techy, so what's next on your job role list? More than likely it will be customer services. This may sound easy but you need to develop a thick skin. You will inevitably get customers who will contact you with those most bizarre of requests, that to you may sound simple but to them they don't have a clue, even if you have taken the time to write up help pages you will be guaranteed that people will still not read them and want you to answer them directly.

Enjoy this experience, don't get annoyed with it. This in turn will give them a positive experience and they will go away telling all their friends how nice and helpful you are. The same goes for angry customers, even if you are not at fault, apologise for their inconvenience, don't get angry back at them, it doesn't achieve anything other than bad customer feedback online and offline. As the old saying goes, the customer is always right (even when he's wrong).

Another thing to remember is to answer your emails in a good time frame. I find 24-48 hours is ok. Even if you can't help don't ignore them as people like to feel valued or they will go elsewhere.

The same goes on social media, of course you will discover as you grow that you can't answer everyone so try to pick out what you think is important to answer, otherwise just re-direct people to your FAQs. Try to develop a community by talking to your customers, treat them as individuals not just a mass of customers, make people feel valued even if they don't buy anything because one day they might buy something! Developing an attitude of 'why should I help them when they have only downloaded a free pattern' is NOT the way to go.

Being the Boss!

You will also discover that becoming your own boss still means having a boss, YOU! you will need to develop good skills in time management. Sitting on Facebook all day checking your likers count is not going to help your business grow, so dedicate time to being on social media, checking your emails and designing your products. This is very important and even something I still struggle with. If you get a lot of emails then just turn off your email program and come back to it.

So as you have discovered being your own boss requires a huge skill set but it is doable. Have faith, be nice and just be the best you can. Don't expect to be rich tomorrow, focus on what you love and you should do ok. Most of all, ENJOY IT!

The Diplomat

Oh! and before I go, you may also become known as someone who stays at home and doesn't do anything to all your friends and family as people sometimes confuse self-employment with unemployment but this comes with the territory. It can be a lonely road being your own boss as your time becomes taken up and friends may not understand why they can't see you even if you are at home so if you are a workaholic like me then it is very important to think about a good work and life balance although as one person once said to me, my work is my life so I just do what I enjoy!

London centric or London sceptic? Why does everyone flock to London?

I watched a documentary, Mind The Gap not so long ago, which discussed the idea that Britain is becoming polarised as London continues to blossom economically and demographically yet the rest of the UK continues to struggle after the financial crash. It made me think about one of the most frustrating aspects of being an entrepreneur these days and one who works from home, which is the continuing concern that I need to be in London, but should it really matter where I work?

Why does everyone flock to London? It isn't just us Brits migrating into the city but also foreign investors.

Google are setting up their UK head quarters in London but why not Birmingham or Edinburgh? For me to answer that question I only have to ask myself, would I want to live in Birmingham or Edinburgh instead of London if I had the choice. No I wouldn't. Not because Edinburgh or Birmingham are not great cities but because my decision is compounded by the fact that everyone else is in London. It has become a vicious circle. Even just having a London post code attached to a business address can make the difference for a company's success just because people want you to be in London. I have lost count of the business calls my husband has received that ask, are you in London? Neither of us see why we should or need to be in London.

I always remember back in my twenties thinking that if I can just get a job in London then I'm sorted for life as a web designer just because it looks good on the cv, and indeed it seemed true. Any company that saw I had worked in London seemed impressed, but it doesn't mean I'm better than anyone else based on that fact alone.

And does not being based in London make my business any less desirable? Do I somehow not have the mindset that can compete with other London designers or entrepreneurs, purely because I am not based in London? Does seeing sheep outside my window instead of high rise offices really make all that difference? Do people even consider these things? Probably, subconsciously but it is daft and I think a lot of businesses outside of the UK are being put aside or just plain ignored purely based on this fact.

And for some reason this seems to be a British phenomenon with our 'one hub' mind-set. Facebook and Microsoft for example are not based in New York yet when setting up in the UK, it has to be London. Many people who work in London don't even live in London, many travel as far from Lincolnshire or Wales, even France! It seems crazy with modern technology that we can't live and work from the top of a mountain somewhere and conduct business yet somehow people are still being drawn to London and in ever increasing numbers. I would imagine it is a mix of wanting to be in the hub of it and having to be in the hub of it, but what is a hub and why does it matter?

When I lived in London back in my twenties I hated the rat race. The commute was a nightmare, it cost a fortune to live there and I was often scared of traveling back home late on the endless trains and underground, but maybe this is something that supposedly makes me a better designer. It doesn't and I hope that one day Britain can take a leaf out of Japan's book for example who regenerate more than just one city in its boundaries with modern skylines and good infrastructure. If London is the financial back-bone these days of the UK think how amazing our country could be if other cities also became the back-bone, why limit ourselves?

If I suddenly had a London post code would it mean I was suddenly 'cool'? "Hey, she's in London, she must be good!". No, being in London doesn't make me good, my design eye makes me good, my skills make me good, my experience makes me good, and that design eye wants to look at sheep, not smog.

It's only going to flood in years to come anyway, lucky we have lots of engineers and designers living outside of London to hopefully save it.

Will big brands ever understand social media marketing?

I read a wonderful short article by Philip Beeching a while back, an entrepreneur I had the honour to work under during my time in London, but as my first post I really felt it was a topic that I wanted to return to as the article was in reference to how big brands can sometimes get it so wrong when it comes to social media marketing and I tend to agree.

The article made reference to a Google Hangout hosted by the House of Fraser, which was an embarrassing mish-mash of bad lighting, bad audio and even worse, bad bandwidth.

So why do some big brands get it so wrong?

Large corporation are slowly realising that they have to face up to social media being the new marketing tool, but many rarely understand how it works because none of them actually really use it.

The marketing team used are probably quite good when it comes to thinking about ad campaigns or planning an expo, but with social media it is very easily assumed that it's easy and anyone can do it, but not everyone can, least of all large corporations because social media is about individuals chatting to each other, forming communities and the sharing of interests. A large company can't just swan in and act the way it always has, it needs to think on the micro level if it doesn't want its audience to press that X button, but it must also still keep it's professional image.

With regards to the House of Fraser Google Hangout mentioned above, firstly they failed to understand the point of hangouts as they attempted to relate to the individual, but worse they produced a hangout in poor quality, show-casing what could easily come across as a work's party to a mass audience. If you're a big brand, you need to ask would you put this on TV as an advert for your business? I highly doubt it.

Google Hangout's work well for individual's and vloggers. I have sat through some hilarious hangout's in the past and you can forgive the bad audio on occasions, even choppy bandwidth and the awkward silences when everyone is too busy sipping their beers on camera because you expect that from individual vloggers, but when a big brand do it, it's just looks embarrassing and feels awkward and possibly be quite damaging to their brand.

Also, you don't know the people, you know the brand, and this is what big brands can get oh so wrong. I half imagine some big executive has instructed some inexperienced employees to get together and 'work on the social media marketing' but no-one really knows how to go about it and have probably never watched a Google Hangout in their life! All normal marketing experience goes out the window to try and 'be cool' and 'fit in' with the new social trends. It's like watching your parents trying to be cool, watching people trying to fit in to what really is supposed to be a fun tool for vloggers who can't afford the television studio to host an interview session.

People expect more from a big brand.

The same applies to Facebook or Twitter, people don't want to see more sales talk or latest offers, yes we all love a good bargain, but reading them on every single post it just becomes noise. It might work on TV ads because it's what people are used to (not that we really listen, I'm still rather fond of my mute button), but on social media it's a massive marketing no no.

People want to read news, they want the personal connection to your brand, they want to know who you really are, who works there, why they do what they do. The marketing mind-set needs to change from mass marketing to micro marketing. Get your ad campaigns down to the personal level, connect with your subscribers. This is why social media works so well for individuals, because people can connect with a real person. When you're just a huge brand, no-one knows who you are, who is posting and it feels cold.

So what should big brands be doing? 

Change the mind-set from mass marketing to as if you were sitting with a friend. Talk to your subscribers, tell them who you are so people can connect with a real person. If you can't do that try the news route, share stories, share interesting articles that relate to your business, engage your subscribers, don't bore them with offers day in and day out.

If you use YouTube try filming mini documentaries. I watched a great video by Pepsi Max recently, where a man called Damien Walters runs the human loop the loop. It doesn't matter that I have no idea who Damien Walters is, he runs 360 degrees in a loop, it's cool, it makes me want to drink Pepsi. Ok it doesn't make me want to drink Pepsi but the advert works, it was interesting and made me watch more of their videos. It also benefited from music and used good lighting, it was like watching a mini documentary or advert on TV, what it wasn't was embarrassing or cheaply done.

So my message to House of Fraser? stick to what you do best, good branding and good ads, leave the hangouts to us individuals because, well, that's just the way it works! And if you really have to do Hangouts, then show the world that you can afford decent lighting, audio and connection, otherwise it just makes you look like you're having a closing down sale, well unless that's the look you're going for.