Protecting your copyright
Copyright includes the rights to prevent others from copying, adapting or performing your works, and the right to control the first communication of your works to the public.
Copyright can subsist in a wide range of works, which the UK’s Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 groups into
- Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
- Sound recordings, films or broadcasts
- The typographical arrangement of published editions.
There are also “related rights” such as rights in performances.
Computer software is treated as a “literary work” for these purposes, whereas architectural works come under “artistic” works, as do “works of artistic craftsmanship” such as the Barcelona chair or the Philippe Starck lemon-squeezer. Video games are included within “films”.
If something can be recorded or “fixed” in any reproducible form, generally it is capable of being a copyright work.
To be protectable, a work has to be “original”. The bar for originality is set quite low; it is completely different from the requirements for “novelty” and “lack of obviousness” required for patent protection.
Copyright only protects the form in which a work is expressed, not the idea underlying it. For example, if you publish a recipe book, those recipes attract copyright, but someone making a lemon drizzle cake to your recipe is not infringing your rights. Furthermore, if someone is inspired by your lemon drizzle cake recipe to create their own and write it down, it is unlikely their recipe will infringe copyright in yours.
Copyright is infringed by doing one of the acts reserved to the copyright owner, without the owner’s permission or without another lawful reason. This includes copying the work in whole or in “substantial part”. Because running a computer program or reading an ebook involves the creation of transient copies, this means that the unauthorised downloading or sharing of digital media constitutes copyright infringement.
Other acts of infringement include making unauthorised adaptations or translations of copyright works, performing copyright works in public without the permission of the rights’ holder and selling or supplying infringing copies.
Copyright infringement cases can be brought in the High Court or the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court.
Questions of intellectual property infringement raise numerous technical issues, so any threat of infringement needs to be referred to a specialist copyright lawyer.
Unregistered design rights
Unregistered design right is similar to copyright in that it arises from the act of creation of a design. It protects the shape and configuration of the design of 3D objects against copying by others. Again, like copyright, the first owner of UK unregistered design right is the creator of the design, unless the design is created in the process of a person’s employment in which case the owner is the employer.
Contact a copyright lawyer
We offer a full service contentious and non-contentious copyright service, dealing with all aspects of copyright exploitation and enforcement. For copyright licensing and protection enquiries contact Sarah Coe and for copyright disputes and other contentious issues contact Richard Moore.
Clarke Willmott has offices in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Southampton and Taunton and we provide IP advice both to clients located within the UK and around the world.