What does copyright protect?

Written by William Miles | November 30, 2023


If you’ve heard of intellectual property then I’m sure you’ve also heard of copyright, which is one of a number of intellectual property rights available to creatives. And it’s a goodie, in the UK it’s an unregistered right and so you don’t need to go through an application process in order to own it, so effectively it’s free (which isn’t true of registered rights such as trade marks, patents or registered designs).

Copyright protection gives the creator (or the person or entity who holds the rights) exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and adapt the work. These rights typically last for the life of the author plus 70 years, or for a fixed period of 50 years in the case of sound recordings and broadcasts.

In terms of what it protects, well this is set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) and the following “works” are covered:

Literary Works: This category includes books, articles, poems, song lyrics, computer programs, databases, and other written or typed content.

Musical Works: Original musical compositions and lyrics are protected by copyright.

Artistic Works: This category includes paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and other visual art forms.

Dramatic Works: Plays, dance choreography, and other theatrical performances are considered dramatic works.

Film and Video: Copyright covers films, videos, and other multimedia content.

Sound Recordings: Audio recordings, such as music tracks and spoken-word recordings, are protected.

Broadcasts: Copyright extends to broadcasts, including television and radio programs.

Typographical Arrangements: The layout and design of printed and electronic publications are protected.

However these categories are also, in some cases, open to interpretation. For example, artistic works include works of artistic craftsmanship and there is a growing body of case law around this area which suggests that certain products (such as a piece of furniture) might fall within this category if certain creative elements can be proven.

So, if you think you have a work which falls within the scope of copyright protection, now is the time to get some advice on how best to use, enforce and monetise those rights. Fortunately, our solicitors are experts in this field and they’re on hand to assist – just email info@briffa.com to arrange a consultation meeting.

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