How do I get copyright protection for my work?
If you live in the UK, you don’t have to do anything to get copyright protection for your work.
Yes, that’s right.
There’s no trick to it. If you live in the UK you do not have to do anything to copyright your work. Nothing at all.
So, if you see anyone implying that you should; or if you have already…
Let me explain.
Copyright for all…! (in the UK).
In the UK (and most of the wider world), copyright is an unregistered right. As such – and unlike in the United States – you don’t need to do anything to “have” copyright. It’s already there!
Anything that you create automatically has copyright. In fact, copyright “arises” the moment a creative work is made.
Get copyright protection: what you need to know
Let’s break this down into the facts.
a) Copyright was brought into statutory law with the Copyright Act of 1911. This was most recently updated in 1988, with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
b) The law gives creators a set of basic rights over how their work can be used by other people. It also gives the creator the right to be recognised as the author of the work. Usage covers things like: broadcasting and performance, copying, adaptation, renting, lending or issuing.
c) There are seven types of work covered by the act. These are:
5) typographical arrangement of published editions,
6) sound recordings;
(A separate 1992 act also covers computer programs.)
d) As mentioned above copyright is an automatic right. It arises at the point of creation. So, there is no need to register it. For works to qualify they must exhibit originality, and demonstrate skill and effort.
Copyright protects the creation, not the idea behind the creation. E.g. you can copyright your picture of the Eiffel Tower; but not all pictures of the Eiffel Tower.
e) Once the work is created; it’s copyright is usually owned by its creator. That is, unless the work is created in employment. Then the company who the creator works for owns it. Notably, freelancers own their own copyright; unless an employment agreement states otherwise. Like other IP rights; copyright may be sold to others.
f) Copyright’s duration depends on what is being copyrighted. 70 years for literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and film works. 50 years for sound recordings and broadcasts. 25 years for typographical arrangement of published editions like magazines.
g) Whilst certain usage is restricted; things a non-holder can do include:
i) various forms of personal use
ii) educational copying and performance
iii) forms of parody, caricature, fair criticism
iv) recording live material for review at a more convenient time
This is all great, but what does this mean for the everyday creator?
Get copyright protection, it’s a DIY job! 3 Top Tips
It means you’re protected by copyright even if you do nothing at all. Unlike trade marks (please don’t register yourselves) … improving copyright protection is something conscientious UK creatives can do.
Some things to consider:
Always create detailed records of your work’s creation
In the old days, people would send all their work to themselves by recorded delivery. They would keep this unopened. Then if infringement proceedings occurred, they could open it in court to prove the date of creation.
This isn’t something you need to do nowadays. Instead you can simply email work to yourself; or keep detailed records to prove when you made it. You could pay a registration service for this, but you really don’t need to.
Place the Copyright logo “©” on everything you want to protect
This may seem obvious; but many overlook it! It is really a good idea to make sure that you show others you’re serious about protecting your work. Whilst displaying your work without the copyright declaration does not damage your rights… it reminds would-be infringers exactly what they’re doing. This is generally enough to put them off.
(Note: if the piece of work is auditory or a film you can use a short clip or annotation to state your rights before it’s played.)
Clarify your position
If you’re a pro-creator; or you hire people to make things for you – you need to know where you stand. Be sure you’re clear who exactly owns the copyright what’s made.
If you’re a freelancer, and it’s appropriate, assign copyright to your employer. Be sure you communicate the value of this to them too. You’re not only creating something for them to use; but it is also theirs to keep/license. Knowing exactly where you and employers stand *before* trouble arises is key.
And that’s it!
Remember you don’t have to pay or do anything to get copyright protection for you work.
But if you’re looking for more copyright insight; please contact our world-class team:
0113 237 9900
“How do I get Copyright Protection for my Work” was written by Dr. Martin Douglas Hendry