Copyright is a legal right subsisting in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, which confers upon the owner the exclusive right to make copies of the work in question.
The types of works that attract copyright protection include, but are not limited to, text (e.g. stories, website content, scripts for plays, computer programs etc.), music, dramatic adaptations, films, videos, paintings, photographs, sculptures and models for buildings. Allied rights, such as database right and design right can also subsist (sometimes in parallel with) these types of works.
Copyright only subsists in “original” works, so if a substantial part of a work has been copied, then it is not generally deemed to be original. As such, the mere fact that one work is very similar to another does not mean that copyright has necessarily been infringed. Copyright also only protects the physical manifestation of the work, so adaptations or themes underlying copyright material are not always protected.
As a copyright owner, one can take legal action if another person makes an unauthorised copy of a copyright work. However, it will be necessary to prove that the alleged copy was, in fact, copied, and not created independently notwithstanding any identity or similarity between the original work and the alleged copy.
In certain circumstances, copyright may last for up to 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. However, this is not the case for all types of copyright works and the term can sometimes be reduced where a copyright work has been mass-produced.
In the UK, copyright arises automatically, which means that are no registration fees or procedures involved. However, because copyright is an “unregistered” right, it is important that copyright owners keep good records of the works they create including keeping copies, where possible, and noting the exact date of creation of each work. Copyright registration systems exist elsewhere (most notably in the United States) however. Therefore, professional advice should always be sought when copyright-related issues arise.
At Hutchinson IP we can help you to keep track of, and document, the copyright works you are creating and provide advice and recommendations in the event that your copyright is infringed, or if you are accused of infringing someone else’s copyright.