Copyright - overview

Find out more about copyright.

Copyright is the exclusive right given to the “author” of a creative work to reproduce that work, usually for a limited time. The work in question may be literary, artistic, musical or dramatic, and, in the UK, must involve at least some small degree of “skill, labour and judgement” to qualify for protection. Photographs, logos, text on websites and computer code all benefit from copyright protection.

Copyright is intended to protect the expression of an idea, rather than the idea itself. Anyone is entitled to write their own book about a school for witches and wizards, but reproducing significant sections of the Harry Potter books verbatim would be likely to infringe copyright law.

In the UK, copyright arises automatically in qualifying works, so no registration is required. Other jurisdictions have different rules. It is, for example, necessary to register copyright in the US and China.

Copyright can be a useful tool in a range of disputes where another party is using your imagery or chunks of your text without permission, including:

  • Computer software disputes where passages of code have been copied
  • Selling copycat products online where the brand owner’s genuine photographs are being used to attract customers.

However, the law on copyright ownership is complex. In particular, businesses using external designers to create logos, copy, imagery or product designs need to ensure that they are acquiring the relevant copyright in those creations, rather than just a licence to use them.

Abel + Imray’s attorneys can support you with everyday copyright issues. And if a matter turns out to be particularly complex, we have specialist connections to call on or put you in touch with for more in-depth guidance.