How copyright protects your work

1. Overview

Copyright protects your work and stops others from using it without your permission.

You automatically get copyright protection when you create:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
  • original non-literary written work, eg software, web content and databases
  • sound and music recordings
  • film and television recordings
  • broadcasts
  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

You can mark your work with the copyright symbol (©), your name and the year of creation. Whether you mark the work or not doesn’t affect the level of protection you have.

How copyright protects your work

Copyright prevents people from:

  • copying your work
  • distributing copies of it, whether free of charge or for sale
  • renting or lending copies of your work
  • performing, showing or playing your work in public
  • making an adaptation of your work
  • putting it on the internet

Copyright overseas

Your work could be protected by copyright in other countries through international agreements, eg the Berne Convention.

In most countries copyright lasts a minimum of life plus 50 years for most types of written, dramatic and artistic works, and at least 25 years for photographs. It can be different for other types of work.

Contact the IPO Information Centre if you have a question about international copyright.

IPO Information Centre
information@ipo.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 300 2000
Fax: 01633 817777
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

2. How long copyright lasts

Copyright protection starts as soon as a work is created. Once your copyright has expired, anyone can use or copy your work.

The length of copyright depends on the type of work.

Type of work How long copyright usually lasts
Written, dramatic, musical and artistic work 70 years after the author’s death
Sound and music recording 70 years from when it’s first published
Films 70 years after the death of the director, screenplay author and composer
Broadcasts 50 years from when it’s first broadcast
Layout of published editions of written, dramatic or musical works 25 years from when it’s first published

The length of copyright also depends on how long ago the work was created. Contact the IPO Information Centre if you have a question about the copyright of an older work.

IPO Information Centre
information@ipo.gov.uk
Telephone: 0300 300 2000
Fax: 01633 817777
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

3. License and sell your copyright

You can license the use of your work if you own the copyright. You can also decide how your work is used.

You can register your work with a licensing body, eg a collecting society, who will agree licences with users for you and collect royalties for you.

Sell or transfer your copyright

You’ll need to write and sign a document (sometimes called an ‘assignment’) to show a sale or transfer has taken place.

Your copyright can be transferred by inheritance and will be valid as long as the work remains in copyright – check how long protection lasts.

Moral rights

You can keep or waive your ‘moral rights’, which include the right to:

  • be identified as the author of your work
  • object to how the work is presented, eg if you think it’s ‘derogatory’ or damaging to you or your reputation
  • object to changes made to your work

Performers’ rights

You have rights in your performances separate to copyright if you’re a performer.

For example, if you’re an actor in a play you may have ‘economic rights’ in any recordings or broadcasts of their performance, even if the copyright is sold.

 

Author: MixoBiz

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