Copyright: An Introduction

Guide to copyright and how to define and defend the right to your original work.

Copyright is exclusive right to reproduce an original work. It either falls to the creator of the original work or to the person's employer. If you create an original work of your own accord then the copyright belongs to you. If you are employed to create original work then the copyright belongs to your employer. If you work freelance for a company and create original work then who the copyright belongs to depends on the wording of the contract governing the work. If no contract is in place the copyright most likely remains with the you until to sign over the copyright to the employer.

Unlike patents or registered designs, copyright is auotmatically assigned to the inventor of an original work. It also costs nothing and you are legally entitled to use the copyright symbol: ©

Copyright can be granted on the number of different works including:

  • literary works, including novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, and song lyrics
  • dramatic works, such as dance
  • musical works
  • artistic works, inc. paintings, photographs, sculptures, architecture,
  • technical drawings, diagrams, and maps
  • recordings of a work, including sound and film
  • broadcasts of a work

To establish copyright you need to make a recording of your work as soon as possible and note down the date of the recording and when you started distributing your original work.

Protecting your copyrightWhat do you do if you think someone has infringed your copyright? Well the first step is probably to take legal advice. This could be from the solicitor or from a CIPA registered Patent Agent particularly one who specialises in copyright law. Taking a copyright action through court could well cost around 100,000 so you want to be absolutely certain you have a strong case.

Normally it is best to settle out of court and come to an agreement with the infringer. Your initial step might be to send a letter or email to the infringer setting out your rights to the original work and date when you first revealed that work to the public. If this doesn't get a response then it might be worth asking a member of the legal profession to send them a letter. This normally proves you are serious and the infringer may get in contact at this point. If this still fails to get a reaction a second strongly worded letter from a legal representative specifying a response must be received by a certain date or else court proceedings will be started, is a possible third step.

Registered Designs
How to apply for a registered design
Registered designs protect the look of your product. If it has a unique shape or decoration then it might be best to protect this by a registered design. It is certainly a lot cheaper and simpler than a patent application.
How to protect your unique brand
Trademarking protects the unique indentity of your new product. You might be able to protect your new company name, brand logo or even a new tagline. This is a way of protecting your prime marketing tools.

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