Copyright Explained

What is Copyright?

Copyright gives the creators of a wide range of material, such as literature, art, music, sound recordings, films and broadcasts, economic rights enabling them to control use of their material in a number of ways, such as by making copies, issuing copies to the public, performing in public, broadcasting and use on-line. It also gives moral rights to be identified as the creator of certain kinds of material, and to object to distortion or mutilation of it. (Material protected by copyright is termed a "work".)

However, copyright does not protect ideas or such things as names or titles.

The purpose of copyright is to allow creators to gain economic rewards for their efforts and so encourage future creativity and the development of new material which benefits us all. Copyright material is usually the result of creative skill and/or significant labour and/or investment, and without protection, it would often be very easy for others to exploit material without paying the creator.

Most uses of copyright material therefore require permission from the copyright owner. However there are exceptions to copyright, so that some minor uses may not infringe copyright.

Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is a record in any form of the material that has been created, and there is no official registration or form or fee but creators can take certain steps to help prove that material is theirs.

What does Copyright protect?

Copyright gives rights to the creators of the following kinds of material or "works":

  • original literary works - for example, novels, newspaper articles, lyrics for songs, and instruction manuals. Computer programs are also a form of literary work protected by copyright, as are some types of databases.

  • original dramatic works, including works of dance or mime.

  • original musical works.

  • original artistic works - for example, paintings, drawings, engravings, sculptures, photographs, diagrams, maps, works of architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship.

  • published editions of literary, dramatic or musical works. Protection in this case is of the typographical arrangement of the edition.

  • sound recordings, in any form (e.g. tape or compact disc) - they can be recordings of other copyright works, such as music or literature, or other sounds.

  • films, including videos and DVDs.

  • broadcasts, which may be transmitted by cable or wireless means and including satellite broadcasts, but excluding most transmissions on the internet.

Copyright does not protect ideas names or titles, or functional or industrial articles.

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