What is copyright and why does your business need to know about it?

Copyright for business Copyright is one of the 4 main types of intellectual property recognised in the UK. It is an automatic right which covers ‘original’ creative works. These can include literary works, music, art, images and film. It gives people who have created these works the right to either stop other people from copying them or the right to licence the copying and distribution of the work. In other words it allows you to sell the rights to the work if you choose.

While copyright is most often associated with creative works such as music, literature and film it covers a whole range of other things which may be of more practical use to most businesses. Examples of things which can be covered by copyright include:

  • The layout and content of your company website
  • Your company’s written marketing materials
  • Any images or videos your company produces
  • Logos
  • Diagrams
  • Instruction manuals
  • Computer programmes
  • Blog articles

In some cases these are things you may simply want to stop other people from copying. In others, as with computer programmes or instruction manuals, it may be something your company wants to sell or licence.

Copyright applies automatically to ‘original’ work. You don’t need to register your work or claim the copyright but The Intellectual Property Office recommend that you use the © symbol and put a copyright date on your work. In part this is because copyright expires anywhere between 25 years after the work has been published and 70 years after the author’s death, Having a clear copyright date on your work establishes how long your protection has left to run.

As with many areas of Intellectual Property law there is a degree of vagueness about exactly what is covered. There are no hard and fast rules on what counts as ‘original’ and ultimately this is something which will be decided on a case by case basis by the courts. There is also no central record of copyright protected work so it is up to individuals to make sure that they are not infringing other people’s rights. This can also lead to disputes as to who produced the ‘original’ version of a piece of work.

Because of this slight vagueness over copyright it can be better to use trade marking for logos and company names. This is because there is a central register of trademarks and once your trade mark has been accepted it has very strong and definite legal protection. For areas not covered by trademarks it is reassuring to know that your automatic copyright is in place to stop people profiting from your business’s hard work. .

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