Can you register your copyright work?

Written by | January 18, 2023


Copyright in UK law is a type of intellectual property that is aimed at rewarding the creativity of an individual that has created a literary, artistic, educational or musical work. Whilst territories such as the US allow for registration of copyright work to give the owner a tangible certificate demonstrating their ownership, copyright law does not quite work the same way in the UK.

If you were to place the title of this blog onto an internet search bar, you would find a number of private companies offering their services to register your copyright. The fact is, these companies largely benefit from those that are unaware of UK copyright law and believe that this would provide them with a formal and official recognition of their ownership to their work. In fact, UK copyright law entails that copyright is an unregistered right which is owned automatically by the author, as long as it is their original work and not created as part of their employment, for 70 years from the death of the author.

It is recommended that you keep a clear trail of your work, identifying that it was your creation, it was original to you and when it was created. This is useful because if there was to be an infringement, you would be able to demonstrate your ownership to the work. You may also wish to protect your work with a copyright notice (such as © Briffa 2022) although such a notice is not necessary and protection remains regardless of whether a notice has been used.

Whilst the manner in which copyright is therefore rather easy, what can be more complicated is whether copyright infringement has occurred. To find copyright infringement, two things must be found:

  • That a whole or substantial part of your work was copied; and
  • That the infringer had the opportunity to copy.

Where there is a complete reuse of one’s work, the first test would be quite straightforward. However, what becomes more tricky is when elements of an author’s work has been reused. UK law provides exceptions for techniques such as pastiche (imitating the style or character of another) and so it is important to note that a mere resemblance to one’s work may not necessarily be an infringement.

What is substantial is defined by a qualitative, as opposed to quantitative test, and therefore a clear breakdown of the work and the importance of that which has been copied is required. Indeed, the law only protects the expression of the idea and not the idea itself and so the protection that the unregistered right of copyright provides is limited.

When you speak to us at Briffa, we conduct a full review of your work to ensure that you have considered all avenues of protection including both registered and unregistered rights. We also ensure that we provide you a clear picture regarding the likelihood of infringement and provide creative solutions to your problems.

If you would like to discuss how best you can protect your work then do contact us on

Written by Mohammad Khan – Solicitor

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