Copyright

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is crucial to modern businesses. It protects image, text, video, audio, software and a whole host of other material. Copyright helps you control the sharing of your products and to stop competitors from exploiting the investment you make in developing your business.

As copyright is the intellectual property (IP) right that protects such diverse range of industries, from publishing, through to the information technology (IT) industry, it has many different dimensions.Read more »

For example, there are different points that arise depending on whether your query relates to:

  • use of images
  • copyright in books
  • whether copyright protects the look and feel of computer programs
  • use of music
  • whether recordings of lectures would be copyright infringement
  • the license terms that would be appropriate when giving a third party the right to use illustrations on products

How To Copyright?

In the UK, there is no need to register as copyright protection is automatic. As soon as you create something which comes within the scope of the copyright law, it is protected. To attract copyright protection, your work must be original (i.e. it must not copy someone else’s work) and in most cases, it should also be fixed in some way, for example by writing it down, or capturing it in an image.

Although, copyright protection arises straight away, that does not necessarily make you the owner. Read more »

For example, if you create a copyright work in the course of your employment, it will generally be owned by your employer. On the other hand, if you commission work from a designer or other contractor, they will generally be the first owner of copyright. A discussion about the transfer of rights or licenses is necessary. Such transfers must comply with legal requirements if they are to be effective, so as with all IP matters, it is essential to take advice from a specialist IP lawyer.

How Long Does A Copyright Last?

The term of a copyright protection depends on the scope of work; literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are protected for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years. Sound, film and broadcast recordings are protected for 50 years. Lastly, typographical arrangements are protected for 25 years.

Can You Copyright A Name?

Contrary to popular myth, copyright does not protect a company or business name. The only way to get exclusive ownership over a business or company name is through trademarks. Read more »

This was decided in Exxon Corp v Exxon Consultants International Ltd (1982), when Exxon unsuccessfully applied to stop Exxon Consultants from calling themselves EXXON for insurance services. They argued that they had paid substantial amount of money to have the name developed and had copyright in the name. However, the court disagreed by saying that, it is not possible to have copyright in a name.

Although, copyright does play an important role in other brand protection issues – for example, it protects logos, websites, software, brochures, photographs and packaging.

Can You Copyright An Idea?

Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression. This means, for example, that if you use innovative ideas when developing a piece of software or writing a book, copyright will not prevent others from using those ideas and expressing them in a different way. On the other hand, patents do protect ideas insofar as the patent covers an idea. Read more »

For example, Amazon’s 1-click purchasing software is patented in the USA, thereby preventing others from introducing a 1-click check out solution unless in doing so they can avoid infringing on Amazon’s patent.

Website Copyright

Copyright is particularly important when it comes to websites, which are bundles of different IP rights. For example, the code which underlies a webpage will constitute a copyright work, as well as the content displayed on the page, including texts, graphics and multimedia. It is therefore advisable to publish ‘Terms of Website Use’, to make it clear to visitors how you make use of the content on your website.

Creative Commons And Open Source

It is increasingly common to find work licensed under an open source or creative commons license. Broadly speaking, this type of work is free for you to use subject to certain conditions. Read more »

For example, some creative commons photographs might be usable provided that you credit the photographer and a wide range of open source software is freely available for use in a personal, rather than commercial context. It is not uncommon for designers and developers to make use of such materials when carrying out work for you and as a result you might discover that you do not own the work which you have commissioned. So, you should ensure that issues like these are covered by the agreements you use with your contractors.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright gives you the exclusive right to carry out a number of different acts in relation to your work. These include copying, renting or lending the work and communicating it to the public or adapting the work. If you discover that someone else has dealt with your work in this way you may be able to bring a claim for copyright infringement.

You should also be aware of the risk of infringing someone else’s copyright. It is not uncommon for employees and contractors to use materials they find online when carrying out work. It is therefore your responsibility to inform them of the risks and implement various processes to ensure that your business does not infringe the rights of others.

Copyright License

By giving someone a license, you can permit them to do things which would otherwise be prohibited by the copyright law. Read more »

For example, you might give customers the license to make copies of your software for backup purposes, you might sell a newspaper the license to print a photograph you have taken or you might give a film maker the license to adapt your book into a blockbuster movie.

There are a huge range of factors which need to be considered when deciding upon the license terms, such as geographic scope, royalties, duration, whether your rights can be sublicensed and many other legal issues.

Copyright Symbol

Displaying the copyright symbol © on your work, along with details of the copyright owner and the year of publication, is a way of alerting people to your rights. Although it is not essential in the UK, in order to benefit from copyright protection, it can be useful when bringing a claim to demonstrate that a possible infringer was on notice of your rights.

What’s Next?

For further help call us on +44 (0) 20 7700 1414.