Understanding copyright law


Any expression of an idea can be copyrighted. In practice this means that if you create a piece of writing, music or any other artistic work, you instantly become the copyright holder. You can assert your right by attaching the international copyright symbol © and the date to your work.

It is important to understand that you cannot copyright an idea, but only the expression of an idea. If someone else has a similar idea to yours and then perhaps makes a film based on that idea, they have not broken your copyright, as you did not copyright your idea before them.

Also, under copyright law you cannot copyright a name or phrase as these are usually protected with a trademark. You cannot protect an industrial process under copyright law as they are usually protected with patent law.

In the UK, copyright law gives you exclusive rights to the work you have created for your entire life, and in the case of artistic works, 70 years after your death. The copyright for sound recordings lasts for 50 years.

Copyright law and intellectual property law are often used as one in the same when in fact copyright is a type of intellectual property. As copyrighted material is intellectual property, the laws that govern these rights are strong. Breaking a copyright law can have severe penalties. If you were to do so this is referred to as an ‘infringement’. For example, if you make illegal copies of computer software, or copied substantial parts of another person’s book, this would be copyright infringement.

If you feel that copyright law has been broken in relation to your work, you can sue the person or persons that have copied your work. You will need to prove that substantial parts of your work have been copied to the court.

It is essential that a qualified copyright solicitor represents you. Copyright law has evolved over many years, and is now one of the most complex areas of our legal system to interpret. Never bring a copyright infringement case yourself. A solicitor with detailed knowledge of copyright law will give your case a much better chance of success.

If you would like to obtain legal advice about copyright laws, Caven can put you in touch with a local specialist intellectual property / copyright solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local intellectual property / copyright solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.


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