What is Copyright?

Have you written a book or recorded a film? Did you know that all of your works are protected by copyright as soon as they are created? A lot of people do not realise that the law protects original art, work or content in a variety of forms. This means that nobody can use your work without your permission. This protection that you enjoy is called copyright. Let’s learn more about it so you can know what rights you enjoy.

What is Copyright and How Does it Work?

Copyright is part of intellectual property law and it is something that everyone can enjoy in today’s world. The law is contained within the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and this applies to the UK.

Essentially, copyright will protect your work and stop people you do not know using it for their benefit. They have to gain permission to use your work in any way. Thus, they cannot copy and distribute your work, perform or play your work in public or show it on the internet. This will apply as long as your work is original and it belongs to you. If someone does copy or use your work without permission, this is called copyright infringement.

What Work is Protected by Copyright?

A huge variety of work can become copyrighted. It has to be a physical work that has been created and not just a mere idea in your head. As long as it is created by you and it is original, it will be given protection. Some examples of work that are covered by copyright protection include:

  • Original literary work
  • Musical work
  • Illustration
  • Photography
  • Original non-literary work
  • Sound and music recordings
  • Film recordings

How do I Copyright My Work?

The good news is that you do not have to actively do anything to enjoy the protection of copyright. You do not have to apply or pay any money in order for copyright to come into effect. Instead, as soon as you create your work, it gains copyright protection. You are able to add the copyright symbol to anything that you have created, as well as your name and the year. But this is not necessary and if you do not use it, this does not mean it is not protected.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

When the work is created, the copyright starts. But the bad news is that copyright protection does run out and have a time limit. This means that after your copyright has expired, anyone is free to use your work.

The type of work will dictate the length of copyright protection. For example, any written or artistic work is protected for 70 years after the death of the author. For any music recordings, copyright will last 70 years from when it was first published. If you have created a film, this will gain copyright protection for 70 years after your death.

What Do I Do If Someone Is Using My Work?

If someone is using your work without gaining your permission first, this means this is a copyright infringement. It will be your responsibility to bring this to their attention. You may be able to handle the dispute without it getting seriously. Make sure that you detail how they are using your work without permission and this is breaking the last. Sometimes, someone will not realise and immediately rectify their mistake. But there will be some cases where they refuse to acknowledge what they have done or wish to challenge you. If the case becomes serious, you can also bring your problem to the Copyright Tribunal. You will have to present evidence that the work belongs to you and is original. Then you will have to demonstrate that the other person has committed copyright infringement. It may be helpful to seek legal advice before this stage.

There can be severe penalties for copyright infringement and it is something to take seriously. For example, you can face up to six months in prison and have to pay a large fine of up to £50,000.

What Can I Do with My Work?

Of course, you can give someone permission to use your work. This involves giving someone your direct consent and saying they can copy or distribute your work in some way.

You can choose to license your work if you want to make money. This means that you can register with a licensing body, such as the CLA, and decide how your work can be used by others. You will be able to collect royalties this way.

You can also choose to sell your copyright if you want to make more money. This will transfer the protection of copyright to someone else and they are able to use your work in any way they want to.