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Quick guide to Copyright

Written by Thomas Mould on 16 April 2015

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To obtain copyright in a work it merely needs to be original (not copied from another source) and placed into either a digital or analogue permanent form either by the author or even by a third party. There is usually no requirement for literary or artistic merit in the UK.

Types of work protected by copyright are

Literary - Any written or spoken matter including books, newspapers, song lyrics, letters, memo's, magazines, compilations, speeches, computer programmes and their preparatory design materials, databases
Dramatic Works - includes a work of dance or mime, most typically plays or screen plays
Musical - Music not including words or lyrics
Artistic Works - drawings, paintings, graphs, diagrams, sculptures, woodcuts, lithographs, prints, pottery etc
The above types of work last for the life of the author plus 70 years. Once these period has expired the work falls into the public domain and may usually freely copied, although beware of typographical copyrights if you are planning on doing this (see below)

In addition UK law awards those involved in the exploitation of the above with their own copyright

Sound Recordings - a recording of sounds in any medium
Films - Any recording from which moving images may be reproduced
Broadcasts and Cable Programmes
Typographical Arrangements of Published Editions - the layout of the typeface on a page
For sound recordings and broadcasts/cable the copyright generally lasts for 50 years from when published or broadcast, for films 70 years from the year of death of the last surviving person from a list including Director, Producer, Screenplay writer, Composer etc, for typographical arrangements it last 25 years from when published.

Its creator generally owns copyright, the major exceptions to this being where a work is produced by an employee in the course of their employment or where the copyright has been assigned (sold) to a third party.

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Michael Coyle quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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