Copyright comes into existence automatically on creation of an original piece of work. However, the need to enforce that right often only arises years later, and evidence of the creation and ownership of that right may be difficult to find.
Where copyright may be an important part of the intellectual property portfolio of a business, it is important to establish and record the details surrounding the creation of the work at an early stage.
What is Copyright?
Copyright is the right to prevent someone from copying original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. Computer software is protected by copyright as a literary work. Copyright also protects sound recordings, films, broadcasts or cable programmes, and the typographical arrangement of published editions. "Original" means that you have created the work yourself and not copied it from someone else’s work. No artistic merit is implied, and even quite simple drawings (for example) may attract copyright. There are limits, however; a single word or a short phrase will not normally attract copyright protection.
Who owns Copyright?
Subject to any agreement to the contrary, the author (i.e. the person who created the work) is the first owner of any copyright, in the United Kingdom. An exception is where a work is created by an employee in the course of his or her employment. In this case, the employer is the first owner of any copyright unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Copyright can be assigned or licensed to others, just like any other intellectual property right.
Can Copyright be registered?
The United Kingdom, like many other countries, does not have a system for registering copyright. To enforce copyright it is necessary to satisfy a court of law that you own the copyright in a work and that this work has been copied. Some countries (notably the United States) do operate a registration system, and registering your copyright in those countries may be a helpful or essential step to enforcing your rights there.
What is the duration of Copyright?
With some exceptions, copyright expires 70 years after the end of the year in which the author dies.