What does copyright cover?

What does copyright cover?

If your business produces any of the following, they will automatically be protected by copyright once they are ‘fixed’ in some way, eg written or recorded:

  • literary works, including books, webpages, computer programs and instruction manuals
  • dramatic and musical works, including the music to songs
  • artistic works, including technical drawings, photographs, diagrams and maps
  • films, videos and broadcasts, including those on cable and satellite
  • sound recordings
  • databases, whether paper or electronic
  • typographical arrangement or layout of publications

Copyright covers every medium in which a work exists, including the internet.

Read what copyright is on the Intellectual Property Office website – Opens in a new window.

What copyright doesn’t cover

Copyright does not protect:

  • names, titles, slogans or phrases – though you might be able to register these as a trade mark
  • products or industrial processes – though these may have design right or be eligible for patent protection
  • ideas

Business-created work and copyright

Your business owns the copyright in works created by your employees, but remember that in any work they create for your organisation unless you agree otherwise – see the page in this guide on contractors and copyright.

Automatic right

Unlike most other intellectual property rights, copyright does require registration. It is an automatic right once your work is ‘fixed’.

How long copyright lasts

The period of protection varies according to the type of copyright work. When and where it was created may also be important.

In the UK, copyright protection for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works lasts until 70 years after the death of the creator. Copyright in film lasts for 70 years after the death of the last to die of the first director, author of the screenplay, author of the dialogue or composer of the music. Copyright in sound recordings and broadcasts lasts 50 years. Copyright for the typographical arrangement of publications lasts for 25 years.

Download a guide on copyright basic facts from the Intellectual Property Office website (PDF, 4.6MB) – Opens in a new window.

Protecting material connected with copyrighted material

You may have files, research and development documentation or accounts that don’t qualify for copyright, but that could be connected with the particular copyright material you develop. You could consider registering them on an unofficial copyright register. You can read about unofficial copyright registers on the Intellectual Property Office website – Opens in a new window.

Moral rights

Authors also have to their work. Moral rights mean you:

  • can object to distortions of your work
  • have the right to be identified as the author of your work (provided you have clearly declared you want that right)

However, there are certain situations where moral rights may not apply. The right to be identified as author does not apply to anything done by the copyright owner where the copyright in the work was originally owned by the author’s employer. In addition, authors of computer programs or material to be used in newspapers, magazines or in reference works can’t claim either of the above moral rights in those works.

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