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What is copyright?

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What is copyright?

Copyright is an unregistered right which protects original creative works. It can protect things such as music, writing, video media and much more. In the USA it is also a registered right.

What is copyright?

What is copyright?

Copyright is an unregistered right which protects original creative works.

Copyright comes into existence at the point where a novel creative work is made and protects the original characteristics of the work.

(In the USA alone, in order to enforce copyright, creators are encouraged to register their copyright with the USPTO.)


What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects original creative works.

The UK Government website on copyright describes these different types of works as:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
  • original non-literary written work, such as software, web content and databases
  • sound and music recordings
  • film and television recordings
  • broadcasts
  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

Copyright only protects these works insofar as they are original.


How long does copyright last?

Copyright is one of the longest-lasting intellectual property rights.

The length of the right depends on the type of creative work that has been created.

In many cases, the right lasts for the entirety of the author's life plus 70 years.

For broadcasts, this is 50 years from the moment of its first broadcast.

For the layout of published editions, this is 25 years from the moment that it is published.

See below for a table that provides the specific copyright term lengths.


What do i need to do?

Original creative works are automatically subject to copyright at the point that they are created.

Despite this, there are things that creators can do to make sure that they are best placed to protect their creative works.

There are two things that are especially important in a copyright case.

They are:

  1. The date that the copyright work was created
  2. The originality of the copyright work


As a result, it can be beneficial for creators of copyright works to record evidence surrounding their copyright works should they need to prove these later on.

It is also best practice to use the copyright symbol to let people know that you consider a creative work as subject to copyright (and that you are aware of your rights and ability to enforce them).

For creators and business who rely on creativity, a robust and comprehensive approach to recording the development of original creative works can be beneficial.

(For example, a photographer may record when and where their images have been created, as well as further work undertaken on images. In the case of photography, much of this is done automatically through image metadata - or information that is automatically appended to digital image files.)


How do I enforce copyright?

If you believe that you have been copied then it is important to contact a solicitor right away before doing anything else to assess your options.


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If you suspect that this is the case, it can be beneficial to collect as much evidence of the alleged copying as possible without notifying the person you think has copied you. This is because, if they find out that you know they may hide important evidence that can support your claim.

Once you have as much evidence as you can gather, we again advise that you contact a solicitor, ideally a copyright specialist to discuss your claim.


How do I Defend a copyright Infringement claim?

If someone has alleged that you have copied their original work it is also important to contact a solicitor right away.

A solicitor will be able to identify the extent to which the claim is valid and advise to the best mitigation strategies to limit your commercial exposure. 


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In such cases it is important to immediately remove any allegedly infringing material as to limit the potential for further damage to the affected party.

Be sure to record any actions that have been taken after the claim is made as this may form an important part of your response to the claim.

As above, we again advise that you contact a solicitor, ideally a copyright specialist to discuss your options.


What can you expect to get out of a copyright claim?

As with most other forms of intellectual property, copyright is enforced under civil law - and is not a criminal offence.

Because of this, the law seeks to restore the victim of copyright infringement to their status before infringement had taken place.

In copyright disputes, the claimant can elect for damages or an account of profits - which if they are successful in their claim, they would be awarded by the Courts.

Other remedies are available and can be sought.

Establishing the value of the claim, and balancing this with the cost of running a claim is an important part of reviewing potential copyright proceedings.


Can I copyright my idea?

Copyright does not protect an idea. It protects the idea as fixed in the form of a recording (e.g. a painting). Any claim that is made operates on this premise.

An example of this may be seen in the form of Harry Potter books. The author of those books, JK Rowling does not have copyright in the concept of a boy who goes to a wizarding school - but she does have rights in the specific stories that she has written. Should any stories be closely based on the books as written and shown to copy substantive elements, she might be able to successfully bring a claim.


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Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide.Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.


DISCLAIMER: The content within this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Virtuoso Legal does not take any responsibility for those that use this information and waive any liability for any resulting effect on your personal or commercial circumstances. If you are experiencing an issue and need advice, we strongly encourage you to contact a solicitor to identify your best course of action.

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