Copyright is an automatic property right that is awarded over work produced by someone which is original. The copyright gives some control over the use, assignment and sale of such work to its creator. Uk copyright law is governed by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (1988).
Copyright protection in the UK is shown by the © symbol. As it is a private right, the symbol will usually be followed by your name and the date of publication. Providing a date on the work is not a strict requirement, but is highly recommended in order to avoid disputes over the date of creation.
The requirements of UK Copyright
There is no official registration of a copyright in the UK. However in order to receive automatic protection under the copyright laws your work must satisfy the following requirements:
- Originality – the work should be from your own mind and not be a copy or interpretation of another’s work.
- Creativity – although this requirement really goes hand in hand with originality, it applies more the level of protection you can expect to receive for your work. For example, if your work is a complex piece of art you are likely to receive a stronger level of copyright protection than a small piece of fairly generic text written for a publication. The level of creativity relates more to how far you can enforce the copyright protection rather than whether or not it exists.
- Ownership – the work should belong to you. This point is often quite difficult to demonstrate, however please see below for tips on proving your copyright ownership.
Types of work that are protected by copyright
- Original written or printed work – this category covers a wide range of work from novels, music or graphic design. Provided that the requirements for copyright are satisfied (see above) then pretty much anything that is written or printed can be protected as original work.
- Art work – this covers all art work ranging from paintings to photographs and sculptures.
- Recordings and broadcasts – this category mainly covers films, spoken word and music recordings.
- Typographical arrangements – this refers to the arrangements used for books and series.
As mentioned above it can be tricky at times to prove that you are the owner of material which is capable of being copyrighted. Examples of where the issue of ownership becomes cloudy is where the work was created in the course of your employment, or the work was the result of a joint effort with another friend or colleague, or lastly you commissioned someone else to do the work for you.
The standard position is that copyrighted work is owned by the creator or the first proprietor of the work. However in cases of employment, it is normally the employer that can claim ownership of intellectual property rights over work created by his , her employees. Work created during employment usually relates to things that are made in the course of your everyday work, or can be shown to have been created during work hours using the employer’s materials. Your contract of employment may also have some provisions regarding work created whilst you are employed.
When you commission work from another person, the copyright still remains with them as they are the original creator. If you wish to own the copyright over the work then you must ensure that you enter into a contract which confers this right over to you. An express clause stating that the creator passes ownership of the copyright protection over to you as the purchaser is normally the best way of achieving this. The passing of ownership can in some cases be implied where the commissioner has been ordered to do work which is for a specific commercial purpose. However in situations such as this you have to be careful that you are not restricted to using the copyright work for one purpose. If this is the case then when you go to use the work for other purposes you will have to seek further permission from the creator.
Where copyright is created jointly it is normally the case that the individual creator has protection over the part or section of the work which he , she was specifically responsible for. As you can imagine this often becomes quite complicated. Once again it is normally sensible to arrange for the copyright to be transferred across (under contract) to one person or at least arrange an agreed division of the work between both parties.
Benefits of having copyright protection
Prevention against exploitation – having copyright protection over your work means that others are prevented from copying, distributing, or lending it without your permission. This keeps the value and originality of your work safe.
Generating an income – owning copyrighted material can provide a source of income (depending on the demand for use). Copyright can be licensed and , or sold the same as other assets. For example if you have taken a scenic photograph that a company wishes to use on its website, you can licence the right to use that photograph to the company in return for capital.
Breaches of copyright and enforcing your right
If someone uses your work without permission they are ‘infringing’ your copyright. It is always a good idea to try to resolve the issue first via notification and negotiation as the person or company may be doing so without knowledge of their infringement.
If you are aware of a copyright infringement that is not accidental, then you should seek the services of an intellectual property lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will be able to notify the offending party officially and threaten legal action where appropriate.
It is often the case that tactful negotiation and mediation resolves copyright breaches and compensation is often agreed out of court. However as copyright is a legal right, you are able to enforce it through the courts. The court can offer solutions such as awarding injunctions, which prevents the person or company from infringing your rights further, they can also order the infringer to give up any goods produced as a result of using your copyright and the court can also award damages.
Using Copyright Lawyers
A Copyright Lawyer can help you in the following ways:
- Offer expert advice about whether or not you are entitled to copyright and help ascertain the value of this protection
- Help you protect your work effectively
- Enforce your legal rights
- Produce contracts for the assignment or sale of your copyright
- Negotiate or meditate with copyright infringers, or where necessary take action before the court
Our Copyright Lawyers can make sure that you as an individual get the best from your copyright. We can also help you use intellectual property as a strategy to encourage the growth of your business.
Contact our Intellectual Property Lawyers
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