10 Things all businesses should know about Copyright

  1. Copyright protects creative output, which involves the ‘sweat of the brow’, such as books, poems and other literary work, drawings and other artistic works and music, films etc. Any work that can be recorded in some material form can be protected by copyright as long as it is original and of sufficient length. Copyright does not protect single words or names.
  2. Copyright does not protect ideas, it merely protects the expression of an idea.
  3. The first ‘Copyright Act’ in the world was the Statue of Anne which passed into law in England, Scotland and Wales on 10 April 1710. It provided for two of the foundations of today’s copyright law.
    • The author of the work being the owner of the copyright; and
    • The principle of a fixed term of protection for published works.
  4. Copyright subsists in original works. The work in question does not have to be unique or even particularly meritorious. Rather, originality is more concerned with the manner in which the work was created, and is usually taken to require that the work in question originated from the author, its creator, and that it was not copied from another work.
  5. Copyright arises on creation of the work, as soon as the work is ‘fixed’ in some material form e.g. it is written down, recorded or stored in a computer memory then the right will exist. You do not need to formally apply or pay for it.
  6. A copyright notice (e.g. Copyright©ip4all 2010) does not have to be applied to the work, but it is good practice to do so, as it provides a clear indication of the identity of the owner of copyright in the work and the date on which the work was created.
  7. The author of a work is the first owner of the copyright. Therefore, if you commission a third party to create a work for your business, the third party will own copyright in that work, unless an assignment of the copyright in the work has been signed. The only exception to this general rule is where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is made by an employee in the course of his employment his employer is the first owner of copyright subsisting in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.
  8. The copyright owner has the exclusive right:
    • To copy the work;
    • To issue copies of the work to the public;
    • To rent or lend the work to the public;
    • To perform, show, or play the work in public;
    • To broadcast the work or include it in a cable programme; and
    • To make an adaptation of the work or do any of the above in relation to an adaptation.
  9. It is a common mis-conception to confuse copyright registration with the subsistence of copyright. Copyright is itself an automatic international right, governed by international conventions – principally the Berne Convention – this means that copyright subsists whether a work is registered or not.
  10. Copyright protection in a ‘work’ will typically last for the life of the author plus 70 years after his/her death. Although this general rule is subject to a large number of exceptions e.g. copyright in a sound recording expires at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the recording is made.