Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection. However, unlike designs, patents and trade marks, there is no examination process for deciding whether to ‘allow’ copyright in a work in the UK. The main requirement is that a work is original, and the threshold for ‘originality’ is set quite low. If you have expended skill and labour in creating a work, and it is one of the types of ‘work’ that is covered by copyright, then it is most likely protected by copyright.

Below is a brief introduction to UK copyright law and some frequently asked questions.

Copyright is an intellectual property right, meaning it can be owned in the same way as tangible property. Copyright automatically subsists in an original work upon its creation. Examples of copyright works include literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, as well as sound recordings, films and broadcasts. Copyright infringement is possible if the content of the copyright work is used without permission.

Copyright cannot be registered in the UK (or most other countries), although we recommend keeping records enabling the date of creation of a work to be easily determined. It is important to note that ownership of copyright is not transferred by virtue of commissioning work, and this should be borne in mind when engaging designers and other freelancers. For more information, see Consultancy Agreements.

No. Copyright does not protect ideas, only their expression. This means, for example, if you use innovative ideas when writing a book or developing a piece of software, copyright will not prevent others from using those ideas and expressing them in a different way. On the other hand, it may be possible to protect your idea by means of Patents.

Possibly – UK copyright and unregistered design right have some overlap in protection. If your work is artistic, copyright protection is provided. For example, copyright and design right protection may both apply to sculptures, or other works of artistic craftsmanship. The qualifying requirements must be met in order for the relevant right to subsist.

Yes. UK copyright will protect your work throughout your lifetime, and for 70 years following your death. The same applies to any artistic works you have created. If someone copies your work without permission before this, then that could constitute copyright infringement. There are likely to be other forms of intellectual property, in addition to copyright, available to protect your work. For more information, see Designs and Trademarks. Authors also have “moral rights” protecting their right of attribution and the integrity of their work.


How can we help you with Copyright?

We’ll assist by:

  • Identifying works in which copyright exists
  • Advising on copyright ownership and ensuring you own the copyright in any artwork, logos or software designed for your business – note payment does not equal ownership
  • Providing clearance advice on the use of copyright protected works owned by others
  • Helping you generate maximum revenue from your copyright protected works
  • Taking appropriate action against acts of copyright infringement

Contact us to arrange a confidential, no obligation consultation and we will help you make the most of your copyright.


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For more information, or for an informal chat about your legal requirements, contact us now for a confidential no obligation discussion.

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