What is copyright?
Copyright provides the author, and those the author authorises, with the right to do certain things in relation to the protected works.
Copyright is not about protecting ideas, but rather the way in which ideas are expressed e.g. the text, sound recordings or various other artistic forms of the expression.
The following are some examples of works protected by copyright:
- Dramatic works – ballet and plays
- Literary works – novels, newspaper articles, or song lyrics
- Musical works – recorded original songs or film soundtracks
- Artistic works – paintings, drawings, engravings or photographs
- Sound recordings – recordings of sounds that can be reproduced regardless of whether they are CD, MP3 or vinyl etc
- Film – any moving image that can be reproduced
Copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (including a photograph) lasts until 70 years after the death of the author. For films, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last to survive of:
- the principal director;
- the authors of the screenplay and dialogue; and
- the composer of any music specially created for the film
The rights in works protected by copyright can be assigned or licensed by the rights holder i.e. the author of the works. It is important to have a properly drafted licence or assignment document drafted by experienced intellectual property solicitors to ensure all of the rights (and any royalty payments) are dealt with correctly.
Copyright recognises that the copying of a protected work by an unauthorised third party is piggybacking on the efforts of the original author and is effectively stealing. The proper enforcement of copyright can help prevent this theft.
Infringement of copyright
If a third party uses your copyright protected works without your authority, you can enforce your rights against that party, usually by taking the copier to court. Common court remedies might include damages or an injunction to prevent the continued infringement.
Unlike in the United States, in the UK there is currently no official system of registration for copyright. Copyright protection arises automatically on the recording of the original works.
In order to protect your works by copyright, you should ensure you have plenty of evidence of how the work originated from the outset of its creation. One of the best ways to do this is to have a reputable firm experienced solicitors (such as ourselves) record and store your original drafts and publications for you together with any updates you may make at later dates.
It is very important that original works have suitable copyright notices in order to warn off potential infringers but also to advise those wishing to use the protected works who to contact for permission!
You should ensure that you actively monitor infringements and react quickly (and commercially) if infringements have occurred. You may find the use of specialist software can assist you with monitoring online copyright infringements.
For more information on whether your original works benefit from copyright protection, or if you think your rights have been infringed, contact the copyright solicitors in the intellectual property department at Ironmonger Curtis LLP solicitors in Sheffield.