The purpose of copyright is to allow creators to gain financial rewards for their efforts with a view to encouraging future creativity and developing new material. Copyright material is usually the result of creative skill, significant labour and judgement. Without legal protection such material would often be relatively easy for others to exploit without paying the creator.
In the UK, there is no official copyright registry or fees to pay as in some other countries. Copyright protection is automatic as soon as there is: (1) a permanent record in any form of the newly created material; and (2) the material conforms with the criteria set out in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 (CDPA 1998).
Although copyright protection has existed in the UK for several centuries, in modern times the scope of copyright has expanded incrementally to encompass new forms of creative material as well as new ways of disseminating material, made possible by technological advances. Modern copyright law gives the creators the benefit of protection over a wide range of material, such as literature, drama, art, music, sound recordings, films, broadcasts, cable programs, typographical arrangement of published editions, computer software and databases. In the United Kingdom, copyright law is governed by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998 (CDPA 1988).
Copyright does not create monopolies. It is intended to prevent others, for a defined period of time, from taking unfair advantage of a person’s creative efforts. What will be protected is stipulated in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Although original literary works, films and sound recordings are all included, not all creative efforts are protected under the Act. This does mean that some highly original creations fall between the lines. The owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to do, or licence others to do, certain acts in relation to the work. Apart from where certain exceptions exist, they may sue for infringement and obtain remedies such as injunction and damages.
Not all creative effort is protected. For protection the output must fall into the category of ‘works’ and must be original. Section 1 Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988:
“A property right subsists in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works as well as sound recordings, films, broadcasts and typographical arrangements of published editions.” Originality for copyright purposes does not demand the novelty or innovation required in order to obtain a patent. For copyright, original means that the work originated from the author its creator, it has not been copied from another’s work. This is a very low but minimum standard. A one-line drawing would be regarded as too trivial to merit copyright protection.
Copyright does not protect ideas, only a particular expression of an idea. Artistic works will usually be in tangible form, otherwise they could not be seen, but they do need some sort of surface to exist upon. In order to protect an idea in a literary, dramatic or musical work the expression must be recorded in a permanent form. This can be in writing or in any other way. All new methods of recording or fixation are covered in the Act. Section 3(2) and (3) Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988: “Copyright does not subsist in a literary, dramatic or musical work unless and until it is recorded in writing or any other way. It is immaterial whether the work is recorded by or with the permission of the author. There will be no copyright in an impromptu speech or a tune devised while playing the guitar unless they are recorded. The recording can be made by anyone, even without the permission of the author. On recording, fixation will take place and copyright will spring into existence. Literary works, Section 3(1) Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988: “A literary work is any work, other than a dramatic or musical work, which is written, spoken or sung, and...
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