What is copyright?
Copyright is an intellectual property right that gives creators of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts, typographical arrangements of published editions and films a right of control over how their material is used. While the concept of copyright has been a concept of common law since the 18th century, it was put into statute through the Copyright Act 1911 and is currently adapted into UK law through the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 (“the Act”).

Protection of material under copyright in the UK
A creator of the above listed material is automatically protected when they create an original piece of any of the above listed works. The creator could mark the work with the copyright symbol (©), their name and year of creation, however this is not mandatory and will not influence the level of protection given.

Therefore, unlike Patents and Trademarks, copyright does not need to be registered. This is a common misconception when it comes to copyright, as the mere creation of an original piece of work automatically qualifies for copyright protection.

What protection does this give you?
The protections automatically given to the material created prevents others from:

  • Copying your work.
  • Distributing copies of your work, whether free or charged.
  • Renting or lending copies of your work.
  • Performing, showing or playing your work in public.
  • Making an adaption of your work.
  • Putting the work on the internet.

However, the following actions are seen as “fair dealing” and will not protect the material from copyright:

  • Private and research study purposes.
  • Performance, copies or lending for educational purposes.
  • Criticism and news reporting.
  • Incidental inclusion.
  • Copies and lending by librarians.
  • Format shifting or back up of a work you own for personal use.
  • Caricature, parody or pastiche.
  • Acts for the purpose of royal commissions, statutory enquiries, judicial proceedings and parliamentary purposes.
  • Recording of broadcasts for the purpose of listening to or viewing at a more convenient time, known as “time shifting”.
  • Producing a back up copy for personal use of a computer program.

How long does the protection last?
The Act explains that the copyright protection shall last:

  • For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
    70 years from the end of the year in which the last remaining author of the material dies.
  • Sound recording
    50 years from the end of the year in which the work was created, unless the work is released within that time, in which case it is 70 years from the end of the year it was first released.
  • Films
    70 years from the end of the year in which the last principal director, author or composer dies
  • Typographical arrangements of published editions
    25 years from the end of the year in which it was first published.
  • Broadcasts and cable programmes
    50 years from the end of the year in which it was made.

Who owns the copyright?
The owner of the copyright is usually the creator of the material, known as the “author”. The key exemption to this is when the copyright is made by an individual during their course of employment. In this case, the employer becomes the owner of the copyright.

This document is not legal advice and if you have any queries regarding copyright you should contact a solicitor.

This article was kindly produced for High Profile by Whitehead Monckton Solicitors.


STOP PRESS – the article below may change things within the next two years: