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Intellectual Property (IP) Protection - Copyright  

How do I Copyright my work?
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Copyright protects creative or artistic works.
You should only copy or use a copyrighted work with the copyright owner's permission.

You can copyright:

  • Literature*
  • Drama, including dance or mime
  • Music
  • Art**
  • Layouts used to publish a work, for a book
  • Recordings of a work, including sound and film
  • Broadcasts of a work

Copyright applies to any medium. This means that you must not reproduce copyright protected work in another medium without permission. This includes, publishing photographs on the internet, making a sound recording of a book, and so on.

Automatic and Free protection

There is no official registration system for copyright in the United Kingdom (UK) and most other parts of the world. There are no forms to fill in and no fees to pay to get copyright protection.

So long as you have created a work that qualifies for copyright protection, that is it falls into one of the categories of material protected by copyright, you will have copyright protection without having to do anything to establish this. It is a requirement of various international conventions on copyright that copyright should be automatic with no need to register.

To help protect your copyright work, it is advisable to mark it with the © symbol, the name of the copyright owner and the year of publication. Although this is not essential, it will let others know when the term of protection started and hence whether it is still covered by copyright, and indicate who to approach should they need to ask permission to use the work.

Further ways to protect your work
You can create evidence for yourself by sending a copy of the work to yourself by Special Delivery and not opening the envelope upon its return. You could perhaps send the special delivery to your Solicitor or legal representative – as proof that these documents were sent to him on this date and time.

It is important to realise that sending a copy of the work to yourself will NOT prove that you were the creator of the work. Keeping copies of all your drafts and any other material that shows your connection with the particular copyright material as you develop it could, however, be useful evidence if you ever have to prove that you are the author.

Remember there is no official copyright register because copyright is automatic. There are, however, a number of companies that offer unofficial copyright registers. You should think very carefully whether this is a useful service for you before choosing this route as they will most probably not be able to offer you more protection then what we have suggested above. If you do decide to proceed unofficially with one of these companies, please review how much it will cost and whether it is a one-off or regular payment. Also will you be paying just for a registration, or does the cost cover more than this, for example help with a legal action should your copyright be infringed?

Further information can be viewed at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/


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*   Literature includes novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, song lyrics, newspaper articles and some types of database
** Art includes paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, architecture, technical Drawings, diagrams, maps and logos

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