What can be protected by copyright?
Copyright applies to any medium, including works published on the internet.
How do I obtain copyright protection for my idea?
Copyright does not protect ideas for a work. Rather, it protects the way those ideas are expressed. It comes into existence automatically when an original work is fixed or created, e.g. in writing, on paper or on film. There is no official registration system for copyright in the United Kingdom (or most other territories).
Although you do not have to do anything to establish copyright, to help you protect your copyright work and enforce your copyright, we advise marking the work with the © symbol, the name of the copyright owner and the year in which the work was created. This puts third parties on notice of the existence of copyright and enables them to determine whether or not the period of protection has expired. It also means that someone wishing to seek permission to use a work protected by copyright can identify the owner of that copyright.
It is also advisable to keep clear, dated records when creating a new work, and to either send yourself a copy of the completed work by special delivery, leaving the envelope unopened on its return, or lodge a copy of the work with a bank or solicitor. This may prove useful should you need to provide evidence relating to the creation of your work, or evidence that the work was in your possession at a particular date, for example in the event of a conflict.
How long does copyright last?
This depends upon the type of work. The periods of protection are generally as follows:
Who owns the copyright in a work?
Generally speaking, the owner of the copyright in a work will be as follows:
There are certain exceptions to the above, e.g. in the case of works created by an employee in the course of their employment and, in some cases, commissioned works. Copyright can be bought, sold, inherited or transferred, such that the economic rights (which give the copyright owner the opportunity to make commercial gain from the exploitation of his/her work) in a copyright work may be wholly or partially owned by someone other than the original creator or first owner.
On the other hand, in the absence of a specific waiver, the moral rights accorded to authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, film directors and performers (which are concerned with protecting their personality and reputation) last as long as copyright lasts and pass to the rights owners’ heirs on death. These rights cannot be sold or assigned to another person.
What are the benefits of copyright protection?
The owner of copyright is able to gain financially through the exploitation of their work, and prevent others from using, copying or distorting a work (or a substantial part thereof) without permission. In particular, subject to a few exceptions, the owner of copyright can permit or prohibit the copying of their work (e.g. by photocopying or scanning a printed work or recording a musical work), the issuing, rental or lending of copies of their work, the performance or broadcasting of their work, and the adaptation of their work (e.g. by translating, transcribing or converting the work). If a third party does infringe copyright, the owner can take legal action to stop this and to recover damages.
Copyright and Trade Marks
Copyright may exist in a trade mark which consists of or contains a logo or stylised elements, though the trade mark owner might not necessarily also own the copyright if, for example, the logo or design has been commissioned. As a trade mark owner, it is advisable to ensure that you own any copyright which might exist in your trade marks, and that you are in a position to prove such ownership, as failure to do so could prove problematic when it comes to enforcing your trade mark against third parties.