Copyright infringement costs artists and businesses billions every year in lost revenue. But the hidden costs – the individual artists discouraged and the start-ups forced out of business – are impossible to quantify. Our copyright experts can help when others copy, rent, distribute, adapt or perform your work without your permission.
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Beck Greener is an innovative firm full of imaginative people – we have considerable experience of working with clients in the creative industries and understand the challenges they face. We can help you to protect your creations, advising on the existence, scope, authorship, ownership, transfer, licensing and enforcement of copyright and moral rights in your works. Whether these are traditional written, musical, dramatic, artistic or photographic works, apps and software, sound recordings, video recordings, broadcasts or typographic arrangements, we will advise you on minimising the risk of infringement.
Of course, even if you take the greatest precautions, copyright infringement may still occur. If it does our attorneys can advise in contentious proceedings both in the UK and elsewhere. Our team of IP litigators can advise on, and bring or defend, copyright-related disputes for you before the English courts.
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What is copyright?
Copyright arises either automatically when a work is created, or when it is recorded, and enables authors to challenge copying of their work.
Copyright does not protect technical inventions, which are protectable under patent law, or personal, business or brand names, which are protectable under trade mark law. Copyright can exist in the designs of manufactured goods, but the designs of products to be produced commercially are better protected by design law.
How does copyright arise?
Copyright in literary, dramatic and musical works, whether created by people or generated by computer, arises as soon as they are recorded in some form, provided they are original.
In general, the quality of the work is irrelevant, what is needed for a work to be considered original is that the author expends skill or effort to create it. Thus, a writer will have copyright in his novel by writing the book, even if it is not a very good book. Someone using skill or effort writing a shopping list, will have copyright in the list. There is copyright in the football fixture lists as skill and effort is expended in ensuring that every team plays every other team, both home and away, and that no team has to play two matches on the same day. This is the case even though computers are increasingly used to generate such works.
In what works can copyright exist?
In the UK copyright can exist in:
- Original literary works include the text of books, poems, and plays, song lyrics, movie scripts, computer programs and databases.
- Original dramatic works include performances of plays, dance or mime.
- Original musical works are works consisting of music, but exclude words or actions intended to be performed with the music.
- Original artistic works include photographs, drawings, paintings, etchings, sculptures, collages, maps, charts, plans, and works of architecture.
- Sound recordings, films or broadcasts.
- Typographical arrangements of published editions.
How do I register my copyright?
In almost all jurisdictions, including the UK, there is no official register of works in which copyright exists. For enforcement purposes, what is important is that an owner is able to provide evidence as to when the copyright work was created/recorded, and that they own it.
Steps should be taken such that an author can prove his ownership of the copyright. For example, the original of the work should be safely retained, its author or creator should be identified, and the date on which it was made should be recorded. In many cases, the simplest way to do this is to have the author sign and date the original and then file it safely away.
Works generated with the aid of computers can be stored either digitally or in hard copy.
A record can also be kept of the date on which the work is published, or otherwise made available to the public. The original work can be countersigned by an independent party to verify the date of its recordal. That independent party could indicate on the work that it has been seen by him on the given date and represented to him as being the original work of the author.
Who owns copyright in a work?
Generally, the first owner of copyright in a work is the author (i.e. the person who has created it). For sound recordings, the author is taken to be the producer, for films, the author is the producer and the principal director. There are exceptions to this general principle. For example, if a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, or a film, is made by an employee in the course of his employment, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, their employer is the owner of copyright in the work.
Ownership of copyright can be assigned, licenced and transferred.
What does having copyright entitle the owner to do?
The owner of copyright in a work has the exclusive right to:
- Copy the work.
- Issue a copy of the work to the public.
- Rent or lend the work to the public.
- Perform, show or play the work to the public.
- Communicate the work to the public.
- Make an adaptation of the work.
The copyright owner can permit or licence others to do any of the above.
If someone other than the copyright owner does any of the acts listed above without the owner’s permission, they will likely infringe the copyright in the work concerned.
Also, a person may infringe copyright if they import infringing copies of works, possess or deal with an infringing copy, provide ways for others to make infringing copies, allow their premises to be used for infringing performances, or to provide apparatus for such performances.
What are moral rights?
There are certain ‘moral rights’ in relation to copyright works. For example, the author of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, and the director of a film, has a right to be identified as author/director in certain circumstances. This right must be ‘asserted’. This is why at the start of a majority of novels, you will see phrases such as “X has asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work”.
How long does copyright last?
The duration of copyright protection depends on the work involved. For example, in the UK, literary works are protected for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author dies.
I think someone is infringing my copyright, what should I do?
If you believe someone is infringing your copyright, it is sensible to seek professional advice. Beck Greener can advise as to whether you have copyright in a work, and whether or not a third party is, or appears to be, infringing those rights.
Can’t find the answer?
Professional advice should be sought for any specific matter.Contact us