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What is Copyright?

Intellectual Property - What is it?

Intellectual Property Rights is a blanket term that refers to the ways in which original creations and the rights of their creators are protected. Some IP rights are automatic, some have to be registered. The basic idea behind IP is the same however, to ensure that a creation is not copied or used without permission and to protect the economic rewards of the creators. The 'property' itself can be as varied as the ways in which it can be protected and includes things like: designs, trademarks, literature, films, inventions etc. For the majority of the time this 'Property' must be in a fixed or concrete form. An exception is the planning and theory of an invention, this can be protected as long as it has not yet been released to the public, is recorded in some way and fulfils the other criteria for Patenting.

(Intellectual Property Rights or IPR refers to the various rights that exist to safeguard/protect original creations from designs to inventions, to works of literature. They confer ownership and the Rights that come with this.)

There are 4 distinct types of IPR and they cover their creator and creations in slightly different ways*.

Patents

Patents are assigned by application to the UK Patent Office, to protect inventions (especially their technical and functional aspects) from being copied, reproduced or sold without the permission of the inventor. It is for a limited amount of time only and basically ensures that the inventor gets the initial monopoly on their invention/product and the income it may generate. The invention must be new, involve a new development and must be able to be used in any type of industry. The general length of a Patent is 20 years in the UK.

Trademarks

A trademark is defined as a sign which distinguishes one service or product from another trader's service or product. This sign can be in the form of a logo, words, colour schemes, or slogans. To be eligible to register a sign as a trademark it must be able to be graphically presented i.e. in words or pictures.

If registered as a trademark, any infringements of the creator's/company's rights, in the form or copying or misuses for example are then liable for court legal action.

Designs

Designs refer to the graphic make up of a product i.e its lines, colours, shapes, textures. Designs can be protected by three legal rights in the UK.

  1. Registered designs: whereby the right to take legal action against infringements, such as using or modifying all or part of the design are assigned. This kind of Design Right has to be applied for.
  2. Unregistered Design Right: This differs in that you do not have to apply for this and it only lasts for a limited period of time, 15 years maximum.
  3. Copyright (see below).

Copyright

Copyright is also a type of IPR. It legislates for the fair use and reproduction of original creations. Anything printed, written or recorded in any format is subject to copyright law from the moment of its creation. Copyright law exists to give legal protection to creators and publishers of works which include:

  • Books (fiction and non-fiction)
  • Films
  • Sound recordings
  • Newspaper and journal articles
  • Dramatic works
  • Photographs
  • Computer programmes

One of the most important functions of Copyright law is to act as a safeguard to originality. Copyright law protects the development of writing, performing and creating whilst enabling access to original copyright material. In this way copyright is essential in ensuring the development and continuation of writing, performing and creating and the existence of economic gain and financial reward for original creators.

Summary

There are Registered and Unregistered Rights in IPR.

  • Registered = Patents, Registered Designs, Trade marks
  • Unregistered Rights= Copyright, Design Right, Performance Right.

*NB: There are other types of IPR such as protection for trade secrets and plant breeders' rights. Some creations or IP may be covered by more than one type of Intellectual Property Right

The Definition of Copyright

Copyright legislates for the fair use and reproduction of original creations. Anything printed, written or recorded in any format is subject to copyright law from the moment of its creation. Copyright law exists to give legal protection to creators and publishers of works which include: books (fiction and non-fiction), films, sound recordings, newspaper and journal articles, dramatic works, photographs, and computer programmes, amongst others.

Copyright ensures that the creator of an original work retains their rights to control their own work and how it is used by others (e.g. videos can only be shown to certain audiences, for certain purposes), what proportion of an item can be reproduced and how that copy is then utilised. Amongst the rights that are protected by the Copyright Act are the Moral Rights of the creator which includes the Paternity Right and the Integrity Right.

The author of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works and film directors have a moral right to be identified as the creator of the work or film in certain circumstances e.g. when copies are issued to the public. This is known as the Paternity Right. Moral rights are also concerned with protecting the personality and reputation of the creator of an original work, this includes the moral right not to have a work falsely attributed to them or to have their own work subject to derogatory treatment. This right to object to derogatory treatment is termed the Integrity Right. Derogatory treatment is alteration of a work by deleting from, adding to, distorting or adapting a work without due acknowledgement. Exceptions to this are translations into other languages, when care is taken to closely preserve the original meaning and expression.

One of the most important functions of copyright law is to act as a safeguard to originality. In this way copyright is essential in ensuring the development and continuation of writing, performing and creating and the continuation/existence of economic gain and financial reward for original creators. Without it there would be little encouragement for people to create anything as others would be able to take their work and use it as they wished and any financial incentive would be removed. In conclusion copyright law protects the development of writing, performing and creating whilst enabling access to original works/copyright material.

What are the Different Rights?

Copyright ensures that the creator of an original work retains the right to control their own work and how it is used by others. Copyright is actually composed of a number of different rights, some of which can be contractually assigned to different parties, often by means of a licence.

Moral Rights

Moral Rights are concerned with protecting the personality and reputation of the author/creator.

Paternity Right

This Moral Right is the right to be recognised as the creator of the work. They also have the right not to have works that they did not create attributed to them.

Integrity Right

This is the creator's right not to have their work treated in a derogatory way i.e not to have their work distorted by addition, deletion or changes to its meaning.

Assignable Rights

The following rights can be assigned via contract or licence to another person or body, such as a publisher:

  • Copying
  • Issuing copies to the public
  • Performance
  • Communicating the work by electronic means
  • Adaptation and translation
  • Dramatisation
  • Lending and rental
  • Publication
  • Making available a right

How long does copyright last?

Copyright protects work for limited periods of time. The length of time depends on the type of work. Generally this is as follows:

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (including a photograph)

Copyright lasts for 70 years following the death of the author/creator. If the work has been created by several people, copyright lasts until 70 years following the death of the last surviving author. (70 years is from 31st December of the year in which the author dies) N.B. Certain works fall outside this 70 year protection.

Films

Copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last to survive of the principal director, the authors of the screenplay and dialogue or the composer of the music especially created for the film (70 years is from 31st December of the year in which the author died).

Sound recordings

Copyright lasts for 50 years from 31st December of the year of the first recording or if published,  or played in public or communcated to the public within this time 70 years from the end of the year of publication. However, when the Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013 came into force on 1st November 2013, the period of protection for all sound recordings and performers rights' of works that were in copyright at that time i.e. for works recorded since January 1st 1963 has been extended to 70 years.

Broadcasts and cable programmes

Copyright lasts for 50 years from 31st December of the year of the first recording or transmission. Some broadcasts via the internet which are intended for concurrent reception by members of the public are now also included in this category. For further information, see intellectual property.gov.uk.

Typographical arrangement of a published work

Copyright lasts for 25 years from 31st December of the year in which the edition was first published.

Databases

Databases have full copyright protection for seventy years from the date of creation if the content and arrangements are considered original. i.e. if a database is compiled using skill and creativity it is protected by copyright. A database which, although it does not require creativity in its compilation, nonetheless requires a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying and presenting its contents, is protected by a "database right" which protects against copying and lasts for fifteen years and may be renewed if the database undergoes major (substantial) changes. Downloading from an online database to paper format is permitted only under the relevant terms of the licence from the database owner, as contractual terms will vary from one owner to another.

Computer programmes

Computer programme copyright lasts for 70 years from 31st December of the year in which the author dies.

Glossary of Terms

Artistic Works

A category of works that can be copyrighted, including any visual representation, such as paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures, engravings, and architectural plans.

Assignment

The transfer of an intellectual property right by one person ( the assignor) to another ( the assignee)

Author

The creator of an artistic, literary, musical or dramatic work

Basic Patent

A broad patent that is the first in a given area

Berne Convention

The 1886 international convention (amended several times) which sets out substantive rules for the protection of copyright at national level.

Community design

A registered design granted for the whole European Union under Regulation 6/2002

Community Patent

A patent granted for the whole European Union - these do not exist yet, but there is a proposal under discussion to establish them.

Computer progam

A computer program is a set of programming instructions that enable a computer to perform certain functions or achieve certain results.

Copyleft

A licensing system by which the licensor uses and licences his copyright on a work to allow anyone to use, modify or improve the work, on condition that any beneficiaries of this advantageous licence do the same with their own copyright on the modifications or improvements. "Copyleft" is meant to be the antithesis of "copyright" which is seen as a way of keeping works under control. This term is associated with the Free Software Foundation (where the term and system was born) and Open Source Initiative movements.

Copyright

A form of intellectual property that grants authors and artists the exclusive right to the reproduction, derivation, distribution, performance and display of their original works including literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works and computer programs for a defined period of time.

Database

A database is defined as "a collection of independent works, data, or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individually accessible by electronic or other means." (CDP Act 1988 Pt:1)

Design

A 'design' is defined as 'features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament applied to an article by an industrial process' and which have 'individual character'.

Disclaimer

A declaration that the applicant does not claim exclusive rights for part of a trademark

Duration

Period of time for which an intellectual property right lasts.

Economic rights

Rights according to which the author controls the exploitation of his work.

Fair Dealing

Copying which is not likely to injure the financial and economic interests of the author.

Generic name

A word used to name a class or category of product or service - which cannot be registered as a trademark for the thing that it describes (e.g. the word "wood" could not be used as a trademark for things made of wood, although it could be used for products or services unrelated to wood)

Infringement

Violation of an intellectual property right

Infringing copy

Work copied from an original protected by copyright without the authorisation of the author.

Intellectual property

The general term for intangible property rights which are a result of intellectual effort. Patents, Trademarks, Design and Copyright are the main intellectual property rights.

Joint Ownership

Situation in which two or more people share ownership of good or right. The scope of rights of each owner depends on the type of intellectual property right (copyright, patents) and on the applicable law, unless the joint owners have made a contract governing their relation to each other.

Licence

Permission granted by the owner of an intellectual property right to do something restricted by that right, often within a defined time, context, market line, and/or territory.

Patent

Document granting an inventor sole rights to an invention for a set period of time.

Trademark

Distinctive name or symbol which distinguishes goods or services from one another and which cannot legally be used by any other producer. E,g, the Ordnance Survey symbol is a registered trademark

References and Bibliography

Click here for the references and bibliography used during the creation of these pages.

Last updated Friday 25 September 2015
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