How copyrights work
Copyright is an automatic right (i.e. one that you do not have to register for) which gives the creator of an original “fixed” work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, with the intention of enabling the creator of intellectual wealth to receive compensation for their work.
Copyright applies to any medium. This means that you must not reproduce copyright protected work in another medium without permission. This includes publishing photographs on the internet, making a sound recording of a book, a painting of a photograph and so on.
A copyright protected work can have more than one copyright, or another intellectual property right, connected to it. For example, an album of music can have separate copyrights for individual songs, sound recordings and artwork; similarly, whilst copyright can protect the artwork of your logo, you could also register the logo as a trademark.
What does copyright cover?
- Literary works, including novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, song lyrics, newspaper articles and some types of database
- Dramatic works, including dance or mime
- Musical works
- Artistic works, including paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps and logos
- Layouts or typographical arrangements used to publish a work, e.g. in a book
- Recordings of a work, including sound and film
- Broadcasts of a work
What can I do with copyright?
Copyright allows you to protect your original material and stops others from using your work without your permission. The existence of copyright may be enough on its own to stop others from trying to exploit your material. If it does not, it gives you the right to take legal action to stop them exploiting your copyright, and to claim damages.
By understanding and using your copyright and related rights protection, you can:
- Sell the copyright but retain the moral rights
- License your copyright for use by others but retain the ownership
- Object if your work is distorted or mutilated
How does copyright apply to me?
Copyright – which often exists within a company in the form of organizational knowledge – is an incredibly valuable asset, both as the codified know-how which drives a company’s competitive advantage and as a potentially exploitable asset. Copyright can exist within your company in the form of training manuals, best practice or brand guidelines, software, proprietary databases and/or technical specifications – they can even take the form of your company’s codified trade secrets.
Internally, these form the core of your business’ value proposition and, critically, can be shared across the breadth of a company allowing for growth and providing comfort for investors seeking to understand your company’s scalability. Externally, this copyright can be licensed to third parties who are seeking to utilize your proprietary software or database, thereby generating an additional revenue stream for your company.