What is copyright?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is designed to protect the creator of original work from either moral or economic exploitation. It prevents anyone other than the copyright owner copying, publishing, adapting or performing a work, except under special circumstances.

What material is covered by copyright?

Information covered by copyright includes:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works (this includes anything written, computer software, tables, journals, letters, unpublished works)
  • Databases
  • Sound recordings, films and video recordings, broadcasts or cable programmes
  • Typographical arrangements of published editions.

Does an item have to have a © to be registered?

No, in fact there is no formal process for registering copyright - the work simply belongs to the person who created it.

Who owns the copyright?

Initially, the economic rights are held by the author, but they may be assigned (e.g. to a publisher) or sold. Copyright for works created as part of employment is held by the employer, unless a contract of employment or other agreement specifies otherwise.

For how long is an item protected by copyright?

Normally, a work is protected for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author dies. However, there are different rules for sound recordings, films, computer programs, computer-generated works, databases, official publications, unpublished and anonymous works.

What rights are protected?

Economic rights are designed to protect a copyright holder from being disadvantaged financially. By copying a piece of work you may be disadvantaging the copyright holder as they will not receive any financial gain by you obtaining the materials free of charge.

Moral rights are also protected under the Copyright Act. These include the right to be identified as the author (or director) of a work; the right to object to derogatory use of a work; the right not to allow false attribution; the right for commissioners of photographs not to have those photographs made public.