What is copyright?

Copyright protects many types of work, from music and lyrics to photographs and knitting patterns. There is no registration process and no charge for copyright.

Copyright can protect:•    Literary works: including novels and instruction manuals, computer programs, song lyrics, newspaper articles and some types of database. Dramatic works, including dance or mime, musical works. Artistic works: including paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps and logos. •    Layouts or typographical arrangements used to publish a work, a book for instance. •    Recordings of a work, including sound and film, and broadcasts of a work.

Copyright is an automatic right which exists as soon as the work is created. The length of copyright depends on the type of work. For example, the term of protection for literary, theatrical, musical works lasts for the life of the creator, plus 70 years from the end of the year in which they died. Both computer software and databases are covered by the same copyright rules.

In the case of written work, including computer software, databases, web sites and photographic works, the author or creator is also the first owner of the copyright.

The owner of copyright has the right to decide whether and how copyright work is to be used. Copyright, like any physical property, can be sold, licensed, inherited or used if the creator has given their permission. The only exception to this is where the work is made by an employee in the course of their employment.

It is advisable that when a piece of work is created records are kept on this process. In the event of any litigation this can act as useful evidence of how the work was created.  

As a matter of course, any created works should carry the © symbol along with the creators/company name and the year of creation. Whilst this does not give additional protection, it does signal to others that the work is copyright and who owns the work.   

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