Copyright law

Covering anything that can be reproduced or republished without permission, from images to the written word. Understand your rights with the help of our intellectual property solicitors.

If a third party is using a design, product or process that you or your business developed for financial gain, you can raise a copyright dispute.

There are various ways to resolve copyright disputes, ranging from an agreement with the third party, through to taking legal action.

Equally, if you have been accused of copyright infringement against someone else, it is important that you take appropriate steps to respond to any claim made against you.

What is copyright?

For something you have created to be protected by copyright, it must firstly be original. This means that you must be able to prove that you created it using your own skill, judgement or creativity.

Original work, such as the following, is protected by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988:

  • Written work
  • Drama, music, and artistic compositions
  • Film and sound recordings
  • Information technology
  • Photography
  • Illustration, sculptures and paintings
  • Architectural design

The work you have created must have a physical presence in order for it to be protected by copyright.

For example, you might have created a piece of music and performed it, but until that piece of music is recorded onto physical media, it is not protected by copyright.

Copyright gives you the ‘moral’ right to be identified as the author of a piece of work.

Economic rights, such as the right to copy, distribute, adapt and broadcast the work are separate from moral rights, but consent of the copyright owner is required to carry out those acts.

It is possible to sell the rights afforded to you under copyright law, and government legislation in the UK states that you can buy the intellectual property rights to a piece of work from someone else.

Intellectual property can be sold, transferred, and have multiple owners – including businesses and organisations, as well as people.

You don’t have to do anything in order for work that you have physically created to be protected by copyright. Your work is automatically protected, and you can mark your work with the © symbol and the name and year of its creation, although the protection applies whether or not you use the symbol.

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What is copyright infringement?

As the owner of copyright, you can prohibit the following actions relating to the work you have created:

  • Copying of the work, such as photocopying images, or making copies of recordings.
  • Issuing of copies.
  • Renting or lending of your work (outside of the Public Lending Right Scheme).
  • Performance or showing of your work.
  • Broadcasting of your work.
  • Adaptation of your work, such as transcription of music, or conversion of computer programming to an alternate coding language.

If any of the above take place without your express permission, no matter whether they have occurred directly or indirectly, and whether the whole or just part of your work was used, you can enforce your copyright.

I think my copyright has been infringed – what should I do?

Seeking professional advice from copyright lawyers is highly recommended, to get expert advice on your options.

You may need help to arrange mediation of a deal, or going to court if a solution cannot be agreed upon. 

My business is being sued for copyright infringement – what should I do?

Our solicitors can look into your case, to establish whether you can:

  • declare you had the owner’s consent
  • claim fair dealing or public interest
  • argue that what you are doing does not constitute copyright infringement
  • challenge the validity of the owner’s claim to copyright

Serious copyright infringements can lead to fines, imprisonment and confiscation in the courts, so it's essential to get sound legal advice.

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