Copyright – How It Works And How It Can Help Your Business

by | Jul 4, 2022

Copyright is a term that’s spoken about a lot, but do you know what it actually means, what it protects or how it can make you money? Yes, that’s right. Copyright can increase your income. Find out how a little later on in this blog.

If you’ve got a fantastic original idea that you want to prevent being used by others, the first thing you need to do is make sure you have a record of it…

What Is Copyright?

In simple terms, copyright stops a unique piece of work from being used by someone else without the creator's permission. It protects intellectual property, which is something intangible (an idea, concept or creation) that you’ve thought up.

The great news is that so long as your work is documented, copyright protection is automatically applied. In the UK, there’s no register of copyright, so you don’t need to apply or pay a fee.

Usually, the person who created the work is the copyright owner. If two or more people were involved, they will often hold the copyright jointly. In the instance where the piece was created during employment, the employer generally holds copyright depending on contractual clauses.

As an instant sign to others that the piece shouldn’t be used without consent, the © symbol, creator's name, and year of creation can be added. But the work doesn’t need to be marked to have copyright status.

The time copyright lasts varies as listed below…

What Can Be Protected Under Copyright?

The people who benefit from copyright protection are mostly artists, writers, composers, web developers and software engineers.

Gov.uk state that copyright automatically applies to:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography – the lifetime of the owner plus 70 years after their death.
  • Original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases – the lifetime of the owner plus 50 years after their death.
  • Sound and music recordings – 50 years after the end year of publication.
  • Film and television recordings – 70 years following the death of the last of the main director, the screenplay writer; the author of the dialogue or the composer of the original music.
  • Broadcasts – 50 years from when it’s made.
  • The layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works – 25 years from the end of the year it was first published.

There are certain situations where the limited use of copyright works is allowed. They include:

  • Non-commercial research and private study.
  • Text and data mining for non-commercial research.
  • Criticism, review, or reporting current events.
  • Teaching.
  • Helping disabled people.
  • Time-shifting – recording something to be stored and used at a later date.
  • Parody, caricature and pastiche.
  • Sufficient acknowledgement.
  • Fair dealing.
  • Technological protection measures.

The rules for these circumstances are very specific and people are encouraged to find out what they are via the copyright section of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (1988) to avoid any infringement.

How Not To Infringe

Unless any of the exceptions above apply, copyright infringement occurs when an original piece of work is used without permission from the owner.

To avoid infringement, a person should not copy, issue copies, rent, lend, perform, show, play, communicate or adapt work which is subject to copyright. This is because these are benefits only the owner has the right to.

Copyright comes into force whether an entire piece of work or a substantial amount of it has been used. Substantialness is not measured as a quantity, as copyright can also cover a small, but important, part of the work.

How To Enforce Copyright In Your Business

If you, or any of your employees, have written or recorded an original piece of intellectual property, you’ll already know from what you’ve read so far that it’s automatically covered by copyright.

If you’ve been identified as the copyright owner, you’ll want to know what you can do if someone uses that work without your permission…

The three steps to take as listed on the Gov.uk website include…

Direct Contact

Try to solve the issue directly with the person who has infringed, if safe to do so. Often people don’t realise that they have made an infringement, especially if they have only copied part of the work. Contacting them directly by letter or email may be all that’s needed to alert them and allow them to change things.

Mediation

If direct contact isn’t appropriate or doesn't work, mediation is the next step. This involves using an independent third party to help resolve the dispute by acting as an impartial go-between. With copyright, the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has a mediation service which can be used.

Court

Going to court is usually the last resort if the other two options have failed. The courts may stop the person from making any further infringements, award damages and make the infringer give up their infringement to the copyright owner. Employing legal representation may be necessary to help increase your chances of success.

If large-scale copyright has taken place with intent, it could be classed as a criminal offence.

Making Money From Copyright

Having something that is protected by copyright has the potential to make you money. There are three main ways people do this:

Licensing

A licensing agreement gives someone the right to use copyright work for payments known as royalties. There are different licences available, and they can make stipulations to avoid direct competition, etc.

Franchising

This enables people to operate a copyrighted brand for a fee. They set the franchise up as a carbon copy of the original. Set-up support, training and merchandise are usually required, as well as ongoing management, to protect the brand’s reputation.

Selling

Most businesses won’t sell their copyright work until they sell up themselves as they have ongoing use for it. The exception occurs when something unique is being produced specifically for another business or person, e.g. an individual piece of art.

How much is charged is up to the owner of the copyright, and is usually based upon the perceived, comparative or component value of the work.

Need Expert Copyright Advice?

Copyright isn’t always straightforward. For additional information and help to find a professional, qualified and friendly legal advisor specialising in copyright, click here…

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