Copyright is a form of legal protection that provides the creator of an original work with exclusive rights of ownership. The protection arises automatically as soon as the work is given physical form and it is not relevant whether the work is published, unpublished or registered with the Intellectual Property Office. It also covers any medium. Therefore, if you record an audiobook version of a book by your favourite author or upload your friend’s photos online, you will be breaching their copyrights unless you have got their permission.
WHAT WORK CAN BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT?
Providing the work is original, the following types of work can be protected by copyright:
- Dramatic and musical works such as dance or music to songs.
- Literary works such as novels, song lyrics, newspaper articles. Instruction manuals, particular types of electronic and paper databases and even the layout of the text and typography used in these works.
- Artistic works such as paintings, sculptures, maps or technical drawings.
- Broadcasts, films and videos.
- Web pages and other material available on the Internet including website designs, artwork, logos and graphics.
WHAT CANNOT BE PROTECTED?
- Names, titles, slogans or phrases cannot be protected by copyright but may still be eligible to be registered as trademarks or protected under the common law of passing off;
- Products or industrial processes also cannot be protected by copyright law but may qualify for patent protection;
- Ideas are not protected by copyright law as work has to take physical form before protection becomes available (i.e. an idea for the good book cannot be copyrighted, but once the book has been written it will automatically qualify for protection). Therefore, any work that expresses the idea will be protected, unlike the idea.
WHAT IS MEANT BY ORIGINALITY?
- The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 does not provide the precise definition of the term ‘originality’ which is a matter for the courts to decide given particular circumstances. It is usual for the courts to determine whether or not a particular work is original by referring to the amount of skill, labour and judgment that had gone into that particular piece of work.
WHO DOES THE COPYRIGHT BELONG TO?
In the vast majority of cases, copyright is attributed to the author, creator or collective who created/authored the work in question. Nonetheless, if the work is produced in the course of employment, then the first owner of copyright will most likely be the employer of the individual who created the work, this does not apply to contractors who preserve the copyright over any work provided unless other contractual arrangements between the parties exist.
WHAT RIGHTS DO COPYRIGHTS PROVIDE AND ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS?
As an owner benefiting from copyrights you will be able to freely:
- Reproduce the original work;
- Prepare any derivative works
- Broadcast, perform and display the work in public; and
- Distribute copies whether for free or profit;
- Grant exclusive and non-exclusive licences for the use of your job;
- Sue anybody who infringes your copyrights.
Although, generally copyright law is quite strict, the concept of fair use sets out certain actions that will not result in an infringement of the original work. These include:
- Use of the work for private and research purposes (i.e. use of quotations or excerpts providing that the quoted material is properly referenced and not excessively used).
- The inclusion of the copyrighted material by the incident (i.e. when you take a holiday photo with a movie billboard somewhere in the background).
- News reporting and criticism.
- Recording broadcasts for viewing later at a more convenient time.
- Playing sound recordings for a non-profit making organisation.
HOW LONG Will MY WORK BE PROTECTED FOR?
The period of copyright protection depends on the type of copyright work. Literary, dramatic, artistic and musical works attract copyright protection for 70 years after the death of the creator. Similarly, films remain copyrighted for 70 years after the death of the last to die of the first director, screenplay author, and author of the dialogues or composer of the music. Broadcasts and sound recordings are protected for 50 years.