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Automatically protects all recorded material. This includes the written word on paper, tape, electronic form, artistic works, dramatic works, music, broadcasts and typographical arrangements, including computer software.


Copyright is a form of intellectual property (IP) which provides the proprietor of an original creative work exclusive rights to prevent others from reproducing the work; infringement of these rights entitles the copyright owner to damages.  Copyright is an automatic right, it does not have to be registered and arises as soon as a work is created in any material form, such as writing, a sound recording or in electronic form. This effectively means copyright has to be an expression of any idea, as there can be no copyright in the idea itself.

Copyright Protection

There are a wide variety of works protected by copyright and these include:

  • Literary works: which consist of materials expressly written, spoken or sung such as books, poems, letters, journal articles or the lyrics of a song.  Also included are tables, compilations, computer programs, preparatory designs for computer programs and databases.
  • Dramatic works: includes a work or dance or mime.
  • Musical works: include music, exclusive or any action or words performs with it.
  • Artistic works: includes graphic works (paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts, plans, engravings, etchings or similar), photographs, sculptures, collages, works of architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship.
  • Sound recordings
  • Films
  • Broadcasts
  • Typographical arrangements of published editions (e.g. format of a newspaper)

Requirements for Copyright Protection

The conditions necessary for a work to attract copyright are that it has to be original, meaning not copied from anywhere else, and also that it is produced via independent creative effort.  Literary, musical, artistic and dramatic works will not be classed as original if there has not been sufficient skill, judgement or labour involved in their creation.  However, this is a low threshold and sometimes substantial investment of resources without intellectual creativity can be considered sufficient skill and labour to attract copyright.  Sound recordings, films, published editions and broadcasts do nt have to be original to attract copyright but they will not be new copyright works if they have been copied from existing sources.

The author of a work protected by copyright means the person who created the work.  In the case of a sound recording that person is the producer; for a film it is the produce and principle director; for a broadcast it is the person making it; and for a typographical arrangement it is the editor.

A work can have multiple authors as long as the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other authors.

Authorship and Ownership of Copyright

The author of a work is considered to be the first owner of any copyright by the law, unless the work was created by an employee during and under the normal conditions of his or her employment.  If this is the case, then the employer will be the first owner of any copyright in the work.

In the case of Trust employees, copyright ownership is set out in the Trusts IP policy.  In the case of the commissioned work, ownership should be decided before the commencement of work.  The person paying for the work must obtain written assignment of the work to be the ultimate owner of any copyright within it.

Owners Rights

A copyright owner is automatically afforded a bundle of exclusive rights and is able to authorise, licence or assign others to do the following acts in connection to the work:

  • Copy the work
  • Issue copies of the work to the public
  • Rent or lend the work to the public
  • Perform, play or show the work in public
  • Communicate the work to the public
  • Make an adaptation to the work, or do any of the above in relation to the adaptation

The communication right is in specific reference to distributing the work via electronic means e.g. by e-mail, posting the work on a website or a virtual learning classroom.  If any of the exclusive rights are committed without prior consent from the copyright owner, then the copyright is classed as infringed and the owner of that copyright is entitled to seek compensation or damages via remedies of civil law.

Exceptions to Copyright

Certain exceptions to copyright law, also known as fair-dealing or fair-use provisions, do exist and allow copying such as downloading, photocopying and scanning in certain circumstances without infringement.  These circumstances include using a copy of the work for research, private study, criticism or review.  In these cases, sufficient acknowledgement of the work used should be provided unless the work is a film, sound recording or broadcast, whereby providing sufficient acknowledgement can sometimes be impossible for reasons of practicality.

Moral Rights Associated with Copyright

#the author of a literary, dramatic, musical work or artistic work and the director of a film retains the following rights, regardless of who the copyright ownership has passed or transferred to:

  • The right to be identified as the author or director
  • The right to object to derogatory treatment of the work.
  • The right not to have a work falsely attributed to them
  • The right to privacy of certain commissioned photographs and films

The right to be identified as the author is the most common moral right used, and this right must be expressly asserted by the author in order for it to be recognised and established.

Most of the moral rights have a duration the same length as copyright apart from the false attribution right, which lasts for 20 years commencing the year of the authors death.

It is worth noting that moral rights do not apply where copyright was originally owned by an employer, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.  Also, a moral right cannot be licensed or assigned like copyright, but it can be waived if expressed in writing by the author.

Duration of Copyright

Copyright subsisting in a literary, dramatic, musical, artistic work, or a film expires 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.  In the case of joint ownership, this duration is calculated from the death of the last surviving author.  In the case of a film, this duration is calculated from the last death of the following contributors: the principle director, author of screenplay, author of dialogue or composer of music.  The duration of the copyright in a sound recording or broadcast is 50 years from the end of the calendar year either was made, and the duration of copyright in a typographical arrangement is 25 years from the end of the year in which it was first published.

Copyright in Software and Databases

The source and object code of a computer program is protected by copyright, this also includes preparatory design material for a computer program.  Databases can also be protected both through copyright as a literary work and through a unique database right.  The database right arises for the selection or arrangement of a collection of independent works, data or other material.  Database right has a duration lasting 15 years.

Governance of Copyright

In the UK, copyright is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), which is amended from time to time in order to achieve conformity with international treaties and conventions, along with EU legislation.

Further Information

Factors to Consider

  • Copyright entails a bundle of exclusive rights which can each be individually licensed or assigned to another party e.g. a publisher.  These rights do not all have to be transferred at the same time.
  • If authors wish to incorporate publicly available computer programming code into their work, permission will be required from other copyright owners e.g. freeware.
  • If a work is one of multiple joint authorship, each author will own the copyright of their contribution.  If the contributions are indistinguishable from one another, all owners should sign documents relating to any copyright transfer.
  • Buying a book, CD, journal issue or article does not necessarily give you the right to make further copies, play or show them in public.  You may need further permission from the copyright owner to do this.
  • Marking work with the internal @ symbol, followed by the name of the copyright owner and year of publication is not essential in the UK.  However, doing this may assist if infringement proceedings were ever to occur.