IP Facts & Fiction

Myths about Copyright2018-12-12T14:02:46+00:00

Myths about Copyright

Fiction: Copyright in ‘works’ created by a third party or a consultant under contract is owned, by the customer.

Fiction

Copyright in ‘works’ created by a third party or a consultant under contract is owned, by the customer.

Facts

Copyright in works created by a third party or consultant is owned by the consultant.

Explanation

Generally unless there is a written assignment of copyright in the contract between the consultant and the customer, s.11(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provides that the consultant owns the copyright in the work.

 

Fiction: If you never copy more than 10 percent of a work, you will not infringe copyright.

Fiction

If you never copy more than 10 percent of a work, you will not infringe copyright.

Facts

Copying a relatively small portion of a work may be found to be copyright infringement.

Explanation

Determination of copyright infringement involves an assessment of ‘quality’ of the portion of the work taken and not just ‘quantity’. Copying as little as a few bars of a song or a few pages of a lengthy report may constitute copyright infringement if, in the case of a song, the section copied is the most artistically significant or memorable section of the song.

 

Fiction: Materials on the internet are freely available for anyone to download and use for any purpose.

Fiction

Materials on the internet are freely available for anyone to download and use for any purpose.

Facts

Ownership of copyright in ‘works’ placed on a website is retained by its owner.

Explanation

Just because works are in electronic form does not mean that copyright protection is lost or has been waived by the owner. Unless notified otherwise, materials on websites are generally available for viewing by the public for private purposes. Posting materials on a website does not necessarily mean that other people visiting those sites have the right to use the materials for commercial purposes.

 

Fiction: Employees are the owners of any works they create.

Fiction

Employees are the owners of any works they create.

Facts

Employers own copyright works created by an employee in the course of their normal employment.

Explanation

Section 11(2) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 grants rights to employers automatically.

 

Fiction: Copyright protection lasts forever.

Fiction

Copyright protection lasts forever.

Facts

The duration of copyright protection depends on the type of work involved.

Explanation

Copyright protection in the UK is for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, there are exceptions to this rule depending on the type of work involved. The term of protection varies overseas.

 

Fiction: There is no copyright unless a copyright notice is attached to the work.

Fiction

There is no copyright unless a copyright notice is attached to the work.

Facts

The Berne Convention stipulates that the enjoyment and the exercise of copyright shall not be subject to any formalities. A copyright notice is not therefore required for copyright protection to subsist but is a useful attribution of copyright ownership, the date of creation and a warning to potential infringers.

Explanation

The role of a copyright notice is to put people on notice that copyright is claimed in a work. Omission of a copyright notice does not mean that copyright is not claimed in a work.

 

Fiction: Copyright works are protected by ‘international copyright’.

Fiction

Copyright works are protected by ‘international copyright’.

Facts

Whilst copyright is a national right, reciprocal rights are automatically granted in certain foreign countries as a result of the UK’s membership of international copyright conventions, such as the Berne Convention.

Explanation

Copyright is extended by statute to each convention country. In the UK the statute is the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (s.159). Most developed countries have agreed in their copyright laws to recognise copyright works created by the citizens of other countries.

 

Fiction: Registration is a pre-requisite for copyright protection.

Fiction

Registration is a pre-requisite for copyright protection.

Facts

You do not have to do anything to obtain copyright protection for a ‘work’ that you create. As soon as the ‘work’ has been created and is fixed in material form, copyright arises, automatically.

Explanation

In the UK there is no pre-requisite for copyright protection. Some countries (e.g. the USA and China) give additional legal remedies if copyright is registered but in most countries, there are no pre-requisites for copyright protection.