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Copyright is a property right which subsists in certain types of works. It gives the owner a number of rights including the right to stop or prevent reproduction of their work into another medium without the owners consent. It also gives the owner other rights known as 'moral rights', among them the right to be recognized as the author or creator of a work.

There is no official registration system for copyright in the United Kingdom and most other parts of the world. Like all Intellectual property, Copyright does not protect ideas alone, but once someone has created and 'fixed' a work, for example, by composing a poem, if it fits the qualification criteria, then the work is automatically protected by copyright. A copyright protected work can have more than one copyright, or another intellectual property (IP) right protecting it.

For example, a Music Album can have separate copyrights for each of the individual songs, sound recordings, artwork, and so on. Also, while copyright can protect a picture, or the artwork of a logo on the front cover of the packaging of an album, it may also be possible to register the logo as a Trade Mark,or as a design.

What can be protected by copyright?

Literary works such as books, computer programs, newspaper articles, song lyrics and some types of databases.

Dramatic works, including works of dance or mime.

Artistic works, including diagrams, paintings, photographs,logos, maps, sculptures, engravings, architecture and technical drawings.

Typographical arrangements, Musical works, Film or sound recordings and Broadcasts

Key Considerations

In order to indicate to others that a particular work is protected by copyright, it is advisable to mark it with the © symbol, the name of the copyright owner and the year in which the work was made. This is not essential, but will inform others of the existence of the copyright protection, when it started and the owner of the work. Furthermore, a creator could mail themselves a copy by special delivery post, leaving the envelope unopened on its return. Alternatively you could lodge your work with an IP Management company, a Patent/ Trade Mark attorney or even a bank. However it must be borne in mind that all this does not necessarily prove that a work is original or your own creation. Instead, it may be useful in indicating to a court that the work was in your possession at a particular date.

Despite the automatic nature of the right, there are important considerations which must be taken into account to ensure that you own and are able to exploit any copyright. This is particularly useful when commissioning a contractor or other professional to create a piece of work (be it a painting, technical drawing or even computer software) for you as an individual or your business.

We advise on a diverse range of copyright issues. In particular, our expertise include advising on assignments, ownership, licensing, due diligence negotiations, disputes and other related matters. To ask a question please call us on our Stockport office number 0161 820 2891 or use our customer enquiry form and we will aim to get back to you within 24 hours.