An often overlooked fact about copyright is that it’s all down to good admin. I know admin might not be the most exciting thing to read about but give it a chance. Copyright differs from rights like trade marks or patents because it is not registered (at least in the UK and Europe). This is actually a huge advantage because it means that you can own it for free and you don’t need to go through a long application process in the hope of getting a nice certificate at the end of it. Instead, copyright comes into being automatically and immediately.
Good news I hear you say, well yes it is but there’s one catch, the admin. Copyright is owned by the author, unless they’re an employee acting in the course of their employment (in which case the employer owns it). This means that if you ever want to vary this position, for example by assigning or licensing the copyright to someone else, you need some documentation… and that’s where the admin comes in. Although it’s possible in theory to licence copyright without a written agreement it’s certainly not advisable and, even if you wanted to, you can’t actually assign copyright (i.e. transfer it completely) without putting it in writing. So either way documents are key and making sure that these are drafted correctly is essential (if only you knew an IP firm who could help with that?).
Admin also comes into play when you’re trying to prove ownership, for example if you’re in an infringement scenario or if you’re trying to sell your business. The first thing an infringer or purchaser will want to see is proof of ownership. You won’t have a certificate to show them and so you need something else, this will essentially be a paper trail. Sign and date your work, keep good digital records, track the chain of ownership with signed documents and send copies of everything to your lawyer. When this is done well, copyright can be easily proven, allowing you to enjoy the benefit of this valuable and long-lasting intellectual property right.
If you have any questions on copyright, or if you just want to show off your admin, why not contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Will Miles, Solicitor