An introduction to copyright

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In this continuing series of blogs on IP, this blog focusses on the concept of copyright.

What is copyright?

Copyright is essentially that – the right for your work not to be copied. Copyright arises automatically upon the creation of the original work and does not need to be registered in the UK.

The purpose of copyright is to protect the results and expressions of the creative mind. The right gives the creator the right to control the way in which their material is used. The types of material which can benefit from copyright protection can be broken down into the following three categories:

1) Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works

2) Sounds recordings, films, tv or broadcasts

3) Typographical arrangements (or the layout) of published editions

The author or creator of the work is generally the first owner of copyright in the work, but there are exceptions to this. For example, where an employee creates the work in the course of his employment, the copyright in the work will be owned by the employer.

What rights does copyright give me?

Copyright prevents people from copying your work, renting or lending it, distributing it, making an adaptation of it, and even putting it on the internet.

In the event that a copyright infringement issue or claim arises, you would need to show that you are the owner of the copyright and that copying has taken place without your permission. In order to prove that you are the creator or owner of copyright in a work, it is important to keep written and dated records or notes of the work, and any rationale or inspiration behind the work, as this will help to establish that you created the work on a particular date.

As with other forms of intellectual property, you can licence or sell the copyright in a work to third parties.

How long does copyright last?

Copyright for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works normally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. The 70 years runs from the end of the year of the author’s death.

The duration of sounds recordings, films and broadcasts are more complex depending on the type of right concerned. Generally sound recordings and broadcasts are protected for 50 years from being made or being released. Films are protected for 70 years from end of life of the last to die of the principal director, author or composer.

The layout of published additions are protected for 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published.

A common way of showing that you have copyright in a work is to place a © symbol on it, alongside the year of creation and the name of the creator.

Should you need assistance with any copyright issues, then please contact our Company Commercial team.

Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.