In the digital age which we all now inhabit, you and your business should be more aware about intellectual property law and how this can apply to you. Intellectual property allows you to protect your work and ensure that any original concepts you come up with, belong to you. There are many parts that make up intellectual property law, but we will be looking at copyright, which is one of the most common areas used in business.

You are able to use copyright to protect any work which is original and which you have created, which ensures that no one else can use it without your permission. You can apply copyright to many things, including:

  • Written words, such as novels, web copy or poetry
  • Plays and dramatisations
  • Music
  • Art and drawings, such as cartoons, photography and even sculptures
  • Film, broadcasts and sound recordings
  • Computer programming, including apps for smartphones and tablets
  • Typographical layouts

Copyright need not be registered because as soon as you create something unique, it is already protected, but you should be safe and actually display that your item is covered by copyright. To do this, you need to display the copyright symbol (©), who it belongs to and the year it was created too. You should do all of this before you publish it anywhere in the public domain.

When you publish something with a copyright, you will be known as the author, that is, the person who developed the item of work. If other people were involved in the production of the item of work, and you shared equal workload, you must include them in the copyright. The only time this does not apply is if an employee develops something original whilst at work, the copyright is then owned by the employer.

Once you have protected your work under the law of copyright, anyone who wants to use it will need to seek permission from you if they want to copy it, use it in public in any way, such as in a show, performance or document for example. If anyone does not seek permission, they are in breach of copyright.

If someone has used a piece of your work which is copyrighted without first obtaining your permission then you will be able to take that person to court. You could take out an injunction which may give you the right to take any copies they have made and they may have to pay you compensation for the breach too. Breach of copyright in some circumstances may also be a criminal act, which could mean a fine or even a prison sentence.

For more information about this article or any aspect of our commercial legal services, please call us on 0800 142 2775 or reply to this email and we will be delighted to help you (there is no charge for initial telephone discussions).