Copyright – A Short Overview

By George Burton

Senior Associate

Copyright is a form of intellectual property. Works which have the benefit of copyright protection cannot be copied without proper authorisation. This unauthorised use may, for instance, include copying, performing, playing, showing, adapting, or in some other way communicating, the protected work without the consent of the owner of the work.

Works which are protected by copyright include:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustrations and photography, which generally lasts for 70 years after the death of the owner.
  • Original non-literary written work such as software, web-content and databases.
  • Sound and music recordings.
  • Film and television recordings.
  • Broadcasts.
  • The layout of public editions of written, dramatic and musical work.

Audio-visual works and broadcasts are protected for 50 years from the date the broadcast is made. Sound recordings are 50 years from the end of the year of publication. Films are 70 years following the death of the following:

  • The principal director.
  • The author of the screenplay.
  • The author of the dialogue; or
  • The composer of the original music commissioned for or used in the film.

Copyright in a typographical arrangement is 25 years from the end of the year from which the edition was first published.

There are no registration requirements provided the works are ‘original’ and comply with all statutory provisions.

As mentioned above, subject to narrow exceptions (known as moral rights) copyright is owned by the creator of the work. If, however, the creator of the work is an employee and it is created during the course of that employee’s employment then the employer will be the first owner. If the works are created by a third-party consultant, then that party will be the owner. This is the general rule but will be subject to a contractual provision to the contrary.

Copyright is infringed by anyone who carries out any of the copyright owner’s rights (such as copying the work and producing it to the public) without the permission of the owner, unless a copyright exception applies.

Please contact our Dispute Resolution Team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form for more information and a member of our Team will be very happy to assist.