What is Copyright

Copyright protects the making of creative works whilst recognising the need for use of those works. In the UK the works covered by copyright are literary (e.g. song lyrics and computer programs); dramatic (e.g. dance and mime); musical (e.g. music composition); and artistic (e.g. painting and sculpture) works. Broadcasts, sound recordings (e.g. the recording on the CD or MP3), films and typographical arrangements of published editions (e.g. the layout of a book).

> What does Copyright do

Copyright gives the creator/author exclusive rights over certain uses of those works. For example, the author of a work has the exclusive right to allow or prevent the copying of their work or the performance of their work in public.

> What can be protected

  • Literary works

  • Dramatic Works

  • Musical Works

  • Artistic Works

  • Artistic Works – Photographs

  • Film

  • Sound recordings

  • Typographical Arrangements

  • Broadcasts

To receive copyright protection on literary, musical, dramatic and artistic work, the work must be original. In the UK two elements constitute the word ‘original’.


  • The work must not be copied.  ​​

  • An author must have expended more than negligible labour, skill and effort in the creation of the work.

Films, sound recordings, typographical arrangements and broadcasts do not need to satisfy the originality criteria as above. Instead films, sound recordings and typographical arrangements receive protection if they are simply not copied from a previous work of the same kind, and broadcasts will receive copyright protection if they do not infringe the copyright of another broadcast.. 

> What cannot be protected

  • Works In The Public Domain

  • Expression Over Ideas

  • Copyright Exceptions

> Who owns the copyright

As a general rule of thumb the author of the work is the first owner of copyright and any moral rights which are contained within it.

  • In the case of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (including photographs) the author is the person who creates it.

  • In the case of films, the author is the producer and the principal director (only the principal director

  • has the moral rights)

  • In the case of broadcasts, the author is the broadcaster

  • In the case of a sound recording, the author is the producer

  • In the case of a typographical arrangement, the author is the publisher.


> What rights do you have

If you have created a copyright work, you have certain exclusive rights over certain uses of that work.

> Rights granted to authors fall into two categories

  • Economic rights

  • Moral rights.

> Economic Rights

Economic rights give the copyright owner the opportunity to make commercial gain from the exploitation made of their works. It also allows an author to take action to claim compensation for and prevent infringing acts.

> Moral Rights


Works often mean more than just the economic value they can generate from their exploitation, they can be very special to the person who creates them as they have invested a lot in the work, emotionally or intellectually. The works express a fundamental aspect of the author. As a result, copyright works need to be protected in ways that are different to traditional forms of property. Moral rights protect those non-economic interests.


> If you have Copyright, what can you do with it​

Although in most cases the economic and moral rights belong to the person who creates the work, copyright is a form of property, which, like physical property, can be sold, bought, inherited or otherwise transferred, wholly or in part. A copyright owner can do a lot with their copyright.

-   Assign or transfer the rights to another party for a fee.

-   Licence the rights to another party for a fee or royalty.

-   Waiver the rights to allow another party to use the works.

-   Testamentary Disposition.

> How long does copyright last

The term of protection or duration of copyright varies depending on the type of copyright work and when the work was created. The general principles are set out below.

  • Literary, dramatic musical and artistic works - the life of the author plus 70 years.

  • Films - 70 years after the end of the year in which the death occurs of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue, or the composer of any music specially created for the film.

  • Broadcasts -  50 years from the end of the year of the making of the broadcast.

  • Sound Recordings - 50 years from the end of the year in which it was made or, if published in this time 50 years from the end of the year of publication.

  • Typographical Arrangements - 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.


​> Unpublished Works


If, by the time the copyright expires, a work has not been published, a subsequent publisher of the work receives a “publication right” equivalent to copyright. This allows the communication to the public e.g. making the work available by means of an electronic retrieval system or broadcasting the work or including it in a cable programme service.

The publication right lasts for 25 years after the first publication of the work.


> Applying for copyright


If you have created a work that qualifies for copyright protection, you will have copyright protection once you meet the criteria for protection. You do not have to fill out any forms or pay any money to receive protection. In fact, it is a requirement of various international conventions on copyright that copyright should be automatic.

What is Copyright
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