1. You can freely use anything on the internet.
It is a common misconception that anything published on the internet is in ‘the public domain’ and is therefore free for everyone to use. This could be a very expensive mistake, because the copyright owner can bring an infringement claim for an unauthorised use of their material and/or demand a licence fee for the use of their works. Moreover, more and more copyright owners utilise companies that use specific software to search for unauthorised publications of the copyright works on the internet (e.g. photographs), and then demand high licence fees or even bring infringement claims. Therefore, bear in mind that anything published on the internet can be copyright protected and you might need a permission to use it.
2. If there is no copyright notice, the material is not protected by copyright.
Another common myth is that only content that has an actual copyright symbol attached to it is protected by copyright. This is not the case – there is no legal requirement in the UK to use a copyright notice. However, if you are a copyright owner, we would strongly recommend using the copyright notice as this will put third parties on notice of copyright subsistence and the ownership of rights and it will help to deter infringement and plagiarism.
3. You need to register copyright in order to protect it
In the UK, copyright is an unregistrable right and it arises automatically upon creation of the work in question. Unlike trade marks or patents, you do not need to register copyright to obtain protection – however, make sure that you retain evidence of creation of the work in order to be able to prove ownership in case of infringement.
4. You or your business own copyright in all commissioned works
It is often believed that if you commission a work from a freelancer and pay for their services, then you own all rights in the work. However, if there is no assignment agreement in writing, the freelancer will retain rights in the work and you will only receive a licence to use it. We would therefore strongly recommend having a contract in writing at the outset to have a clear documented chain of title in the work – again, you might need it in the infringement or commercial scenarios (e.g. when it comes to seeking investment, licensing your works or expanding or selling the business).
If someone used your works without your permission or if you received a copyright infringement letter, or if you would like to discuss any other aspect of IP assets you might have and how to go about protecting them, please drop us an email or give us a call and we will be happy to arrange a free consultation with one of our specialist IP lawyers.
Written by Anastasia Troshkova, Solicitor