Of all the different types of intellectual property rights, probably the most crucial for modern businesses is copyright. It covers not just the written word and images, but software, music, films, audio recordings, website content, brochures, manuals and artistic work of all kinds.

Unlike other types of intellectual property that require some sort of official registration in order to gain protection, in the UK copyright arises automatically whenever an original work is created that falls within the scope of copyright law.

Normally copyright will belong to the creator of the relevant work, but that is not always the case and it is important when a business is commissioning or being commissioned to create a copyright work to clarify with the other party who will own the copyright. For example, work that is created by an employee will usually belong to their employer, whilst work created by a contractor or consultant will usually not. Copyright may also be shared amongst two or more people when a group of people work collaboratively, which can make exploiting individual rights complex.

Although copyright provides a very broad and powerful level of protection, there are certain areas that it does not cover. Most notably, copyright provides protection for the way in which an idea or artistic work is expressed, but does not protect the idea itself. The protection of commercial ideas is where patents come in. Likewise, copyright is not the means by which to protect business names. That is the domain of registered trademarks, which is the means by which the exclusive protection of a name or brand can be secured.

The period of time that copyright protection lasts for depends on the type of work involved. Literary, musical, dramatic, and artistic works are protected for 70 years from the end of an author’s lifetime. Sound, film and broadcast recordings are protected for 50 years, and typographical arrangements are protected for 25 years.

Since copyright gives the owner certain exclusive legal rights to exploit a creative work, those rights are capable of being licensed to third parties that wish to use them, and can also be infringed as a result of unauthorised use. Especially in the internet age, properly licensing copyright, and dealing with copyright infringement are important issues for any business, and we are able to guide you through all of the issues, and help take a commercial and pragmatic approach to issues of copyright licensing and infringement.

Often authors will wish to establish their rights of creation by depositing a manuscript or copy of a work with us so they can prove their rights as creator if this is challenged in the future, and this is a service we can offer. It is also good practice to place on any copyright work the © symbol accompanied by the name of the creator and the year of creation, although this is not strictly necessary.