Copyright gives the creators of specified types of work the legal right to control the use of their creations. Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and its amending regulations, the works protected are:
- literary (including manuscripts, manuals, computer programs, commercial documents, articles, leaflets, newsletters, and song lyrics);
- dramatic (including plays and dance);
- musical scores and recordings;
- artistic (including painting, photography, sculpture, logos, maps, and technical drawings;
- typographical arrangements of published works (including periodicals and magazines);
- sound recordings; and
- film (including broadcast and cable programs, films and video footage).
When does copyright arise?
It is a common misunderstanding that copyright is something that the creator of a piece of work must assert. This is not true. Copyright arises automatically upon the creation of eligible work. Eligible works:
- are original; and
- demonstrate a particular degree of labor, judgment or skill.
What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement can happen in a number of ways. Some are deliberate, such as the acquisition of material via the best torrent sites. Others are accidental. All copyright infringement is illegal.
In particular, the following actions are illegal without the consent of the copyright owner:
- copying the material;
- issuing, lending or renting copies of the material to the public;
- broadcasting, performing, showing the material in public; or
- adapting the material.
What are the penalties for copyright infringement?
The criminal courts deal with copyright infringement. A conviction in the magistrates’ court may result in a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a maximum prison sentence of six months. A conviction in the Crown Court may result in an unlimited fine and/or a maximum prison sentence of ten years.
Avoiding copyright infringement
There are several ways of ensuring you do not infringe copyright law.
- Fair dealing
If your actions constitute fair dealing, you will not infringe copyright. Fair dealing covers a variety of permitted actions. They are:
- using the work for the purposes of private or research study;
- performing, copying or lending the work for an educational purpose;
- using the work for the purposes of current news reporting or criticism;
- incidental inclusion of the work;
- lending or copying by a librarian;
- backing up or altering the format of a work you own for your personal use;
- using the work for the purposes of pastiche, parody or caricature;
- using the work to produce a back-up version for personal use on a computer program;
- ]an act undertaken for Parliamentary purposes, in accordance with a Royal Commission, or as part of a statutory inquiry or judicial proceedings; or
- recording broadcast in order to watch it or listen to it at another time.
- Expiry of copyright
Copyright is not indefinite. You may use a work without restriction once the copyright has expired. The duration of copyright depends on the type of material.
- The copyright attaching to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works lasts for 70 years following the end of the calendar year in which the last author, composer or creator of the work dies.
- The copyright attaching to sound recordings lasts for 50 years following the end of the calendar year in which the work was created. However, if the recording is released during that 50-year period, the copyright runs for 70 years following the end of the calendar year in which the work was first released.
- The copyright attaching to films lasts for 70 years following the end of the calendar year in which the last main author, director, author-composer dies. However, if the film is released to the public during that 70-year period, the copyright runs for 70 years following the end of the year the film was first made available.
- Acquire consent
This means buying the appropriate license from the Copyright Licensing Agency Limited. If for some reason, you are unable to do this, you must write to the copyright holder to ask permission whenever you wish to copy a proportion of the work in question. You must also pay any associated fees.
- Check the copyright icon
An icon called “What can I do with this content?” may accompany online documents. It communicates copyright terms to users.
- Internal policies for businesses and other organizations
If you own or represent a business or other organization, drafting a copyright policy for staff to refer to is a sensible step. It should detail best practice and explain what staff may and may not do with copyrighted material.