What is copyright?

Well, if you’ve spent time and money creating something original, the last thing you want is for someone else to come along and use it for their gain. Copyright is the legal concept that protects your rights from those would-be copycats.

Unlike trade marks, copyright is a ‘right’ that you acquire automatically once the piece of work is created. To qualify, the original creation must be a:

  • Work of literature, such as a novel or poem
  • Non-literary creation such as a table, list, piece of software, website content or database
  • Dramatic work
  • Music and sound recording
  • Film and television recording
  • Broadcast
  • Typographical arrangement of published materials

A way to show that you own the content is to use the copyright symbol along with your name and the year in which it was created (e.g. © Ward Trade Marks, 2020).

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What is copyright infringement?

If one of the copycats we mentioned above copies, distributes, lends, performs, or adapts your work without your permission, they are infringing your copyright.

They are also infringing (secondary) if they import an infringed copy, own one, deal with one or give someone else the means to make one.

What happens if someone infringes your copyright?

If you find someone using your work without your permission, you can turn to civil actions and get an injunction and potentially, damages. You can also have all the offending copies seized.

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Can I register my copyright?

The simple answer is no, because there is no UK register for copyrighted works.

However, the automatic copyright which arises does give you economic rights which can be licensed or assigned to another party. You also have moral rights (these can be waived but not licensed or assigned).

Of course, without a copyright register in the UK, the buck stops with you when it comes to defending your content from infringement.

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How long does copyright last?

Your protection starts as soon as you’ve created your content. The length of that protection depends on the type of content:

Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works

70 years after the author’s death


50 years from the first broadcast

Typographical arrangements

25 years from when it’s first published.

What should you do if your work is being used by someone else without your permission?

 Contact us straightaway so that we can investigate what is happening. The law in this area is very complicated and the specific facts need to be looked into carefully for each case.

Not all instances of copying a work are infringement, for example it is important to remember that copyright does not protect ideas, systems, concepts (including business concepts) or methods of doing something. Copyright does protect your expression of your ideas, for example, through the way you write them or draw them.

Another consideration is that there may be a defence to the copying. For example, the use of the material may be allowable under a legal exception known as ‘fair dealing’.

There are certain instances where fair dealing is a legitimate defence, for example:

  • The material is a personal copy for private use
  • The use is for research or private study
  • The use is for criticism, review or quotation
  • The use is for parody, caricature or pastiche
  • The material is used to report current events (this is not applicable to photographs)

If our investigations show that someone is infringing your copyright, we can send a ‘Cease and Desist Letter’, telling the infringer to stop the infringing activity immediately. 

For more information about copyright issues and how you can defend your rights, give us a call for an informal chat.

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To make a no obligation enquiry, please either call us on 01284 619000 or make an online enquiry and we will be delighted to help you.

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