What is copyright and how is it governed by UK law?
Copyright is part of a wider set of intellectual property rights
which offer protection and certain exclusive rights to the owner(s)
of the rights in a work. For example copyright laws usually grant
the creator of a work the exclusive right to reproduce that work or
prepare derivative works.
In the UK the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 (as amended)
defines copyright as:
"... a property right which subsists in accordance with this
Part in the following descriptions of work -
- original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic
- sound recordings, films, or broadcasts, and
- the typographical arrangement of published
Examples of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works
include books, plays, songs and photographs.
There are three tests that you can apply to any work to determine
if it is subject to copyright. These include:
- it must be original
- it must be fixed (important in electronic environment) This
means it must exist in a material form - whether that is on paper,
electronically or otherwise.
- the author of the work must be a qualified national (broadly
either from a country that recognises copyright law or resident in
such a country) or where the work has been published, the country
of first publication must qualify (broadly that it recognises
In the UK the legislation in force is the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988. When looking at the Act you will
also need to consult a number of statutory instruments as many
amendments have been made since 1988. In recent years numerous
amendments have been made following EU Directives, which are
attempting to harmonise copyright law across the European Union. It
is also anticipated that changes may be made to UK copyright law in
the next few years, following the recommendations from the
Independent Review of IP and
Growth undertaken in November 2010. To keep up to date with
copyright changes see the Further
Reading section of this course.
Secker, adapted for use at York St. John University
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