How does copyright work?

How does copyright work?Copyright protects the creators of original text, artwork, recordings, films, computer programs and some databases. It gives you automatic control over the rights to copy, perform, broadcast or adapt your material, though limited use is allowed without your permission for private study, teaching in schools and reviews

Copyright for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic material and for computer software lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus an additional 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator died. Copyright for other material lasts for 25, 50 or 70 years.

Making use of copyright works

In October 2014 small changes in the law governing copyright were introduced to allow individuals to make private copies for their own use of some digital media under very specific circumstances, for example copying CDs onto an mp3 player or making a single copy of a copyright work in an accessible format for the personal use of a disabled person. However, the majority of uses of copyright continue to require permission from the copyright owner so be very careful if you are considering relying on an exception to the usual rules when using copyright material. If in doubt, seek legal advice. You can read an overview of the exceptions to copyright on the GOV.UK website.

Protecting your creations

It is up to you to enforce copyright yourself. Although copyright is automatic, you may want to add the copyright symbol © or the words 'copyright - all rights reserved', together with your name and the year of creation, to the copyright material to help emphasise that copyright exists. You should also keep copies of the original work and dated records of when it was disclosed to other people. Even so, enforcing your rights if someone adapts your work can be difficult.

The 2014 rule amendments do not change who owns a copyrighted piece of work. If you are the owner of a copyright, you will still be able to enforce your right to prohibit or license the use of your work, except in a few limited circumstances. Read guidance on the exceptions to copyright rules for creators and copyright owners on the GOV.UK website.

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