Copyright protects creative works such as literature, art, film, photography, music, web content and sound recordings. The creator of the work automatically holds the copyright to their creation and so will have total control over how the work is used. This right is enforceable up until the copyright period ends, after which the work will become part of the public domain and anyone may use it.
Copyright is used to support creative production and to make sure that creators receive their fair rewards for the work that they do. If a piece of work is used without the copyright owner’s permission or in a way that has not been allowed, legal action can be taken. The creator of a work can mark their work with the copyright symbol (©), their name and the year that it was created. If the work is marked does not affect the level of protection that it has.
What does copyright protect against?
- Copyright protects against:
- Copying the work
- Distribution of copies, either free or for sale
- Lending or renting of copies
- Playing, performing or showing of the work in public
- Making adaptations of the work
- Putting the work on the internet
- Overseas copyright
International agreements are in place to protect work overseas, such as the Berne Convention. Most countries will have copyright protection which lasts a minimum of 50 years for written, artistic and dramatic work and at least 25 years for photographs. Other types of work can vary, so it is best to check with what types of protection exists for specific works.
Protecting copyrighted work
The creator of the copyrighted work is responsible for defending the work against unauthorised use. Some organisations or people may have the right to use copyright work without the permission of the creator, such as schools and libraries. If you have reason to believe that someone is using your work without your permission, it is always best to check whether they are authorised to use it before taking any action against them or trying to stop them from using it.
Most organisations or individuals must apply for a certain type of license before they may use a work that is covered by copyright, but they don’t know who holds the rights. As it is up to the creator to enforce their rights, it is advisable to check the licences register (which can be found here) to see if anyone has licences, or is in the process of applying to license a work. If a work that belongs to you is found on this register, you can apply to have the application stopped or claim any license fee that has been paid.
If a dispute arises from copyright claims, JMR Solicitors can advise on the best course of action to help you to protect your work. Some disputes can be decided by the Copyright Tribunal.