Copyright law in most countries gives the creator of original work, the automatic legal right to control who can make a copy of it.
Although each country across the world has its own particular copyright laws, most countries will automatically legally recognise the creators rights without the requirement to formally register the work with a government body.
However, should a dispute arise, the creator will need to reliably prove ownership.
In addition to this, because most countries have signed the Berne Convention (which is an International copyright treaty for the Protection of Literary, Dramatic & Artistic Works) , each country is treaty bound to recognise the automatic legal copyright of each other's citizens.
This is a key agreement to allow smooth global trade whilst protecting the copyright of creators across borders.
Below is an outline of how copyright law works in the UK, and the UK laws that govern its use. All other Berne Convention signatory countries will operate similar laws.
In the United Kingdom, like most countries,there's no official government copyright law office to register your artistic works.
In simple terms, copyright law states that copyright is an automatic legal right, automatically granted to the author(s) or originator(s), both during its development and once the work has been finalised.
The copyright term of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is the lifetime of the creator, plus seventy years. As the owner and copyright holder of this work, there's no legal requirement to register this work but if a dispute arises, for a successful outcome in your favour, you may be required to prove that the work is yours, and the date that work was created. This is where the problem can lie.
Proving that you're the original creator of your work and the date of creation can be more difficult than it first seems. If you've created your work on your computer or device, how do you prove it? System dates and times on computers and devices can be easily changed by any novice, so this is not indisputable proof should you be challenged.
Copyright in most countries is an automatic legal right, but if you don't get your creative work certified, you will be exposed to thieves.
In the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this is described as follows:
(a) original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works,
(b) sound recordings, films [or broadcasts], and
(c) the typographical arrangement of published editions.
So, in simple terms, copyright can broadly cover such everyday items such as:
.........to mention just a few !
We'll keep this quick, as the subject of copyright law can be complex, but nonetheless it's important, especially in the age of the Internet when your copyright material is just a "right click" away from being stolen.
The main UK statutes in play now are:
The Statute of Anne was the first British copyright law, enacted in 1709 and entering into force on April 10, 1710. This statute first accorded exclusive rights to authors rather than publishers and it included protections for consumers of printed work ensuring that publishers could not control their use after sale. It also limited the duration of such exclusive rights to 28 years, after which all works would pass into the public domain. It is generally considered to be the first fully-fledged copyright law in the world.
It's been the long held view that, for copyright, a scheme of compulsory registration before publication, such that exists in patents act, is more trouble than it is worth; and under the current Berne Convention system there's no need for registration of title at all.
But the English copyright registration system started by the Statute of Anne and survived in one form or another until 1912, was more flexible. Under the Copyright Act 1842 registration at Stationers' Hall was merely evidence of title, not proof; and there was no obligation to register unless one wanted to bring an action for infringement, in which case it was held to be sufficient to register before issuing the writ (Warne v Lawrence (1886) 54 LT 371).
Since the Statute of Anne almost three hundred years ago, countries like the United States have adopted the fundamental principles of English copyright law into their own copyright system. One crucial feature of US copyright law, which is noticeably absent and desperately needed in English law, is the concept of copyright registration.
Fast forward to today and the current UK law that covers intellectual property rights are the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 , The Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 and Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 (AKA the EU copyright directive).
The most influential international copyright treaty for copyright is the Berne Convention . The WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) provide a good summary of its 3 basic principle (as shown below). All countries who sign up this treaty will be expected to abide by these important basic principles ( Source : WIPO ) :
(a) Works originating in one of the Contracting States (that is, works the author of which is a national of such a State or works first published in such a State) must be given the same protection in each of the other Contracting States as the latter grants to the works of its own nationals (principle of "national treatment") .
(b) Protection must not be conditional upon compliance with any formality (principle of "automatic" protection)
(c) Protection is independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work (principle of "independence" of protection). If, however, a Contracting State provides for a longer term of protection than the minimum prescribed by the Convention and the work ceases to be protected in the country of origin, protection may be denied once protection in the country of origin ceases.
Here is an up-to-date list from the WIPO of 177 countries who have signed it. It includes most of the world's countries.
A useful summary list of additional international copyright related treaties and conventions can be found here.
The old system of verifying a date of work was called, "The Poor Man's Copyright". This was when you would print out or take a copy of your material, put it in an envelope and mail it to yourself. The postmark of the envelope from the post office, would serve as your proof of date and your work existing at that time.
The problem with this method is that you will then have to keep this envelope with you for the rest of your life, making sure you don't lose it or that it isn't damaged. On top of this, should you ever need to prove your copyright for that work, you'll need to open the envelope, meaning it can't be used again as proof, should you ever have a second case of copyright infringement. Also, courts are well aware that envelopes can be steamed open, contents replaced and re-sealed by anyone with a decent kettle! So, this is obviously not the most reliable evidence to present in a court, and in our view, a more appropriate method is to have your work formally recorded by an independent, reputable and reliable body such as Protect My Work Limited.
In a dispute concerning copyright ownership sadly though this can be seen as an amateurish way to establish ownership. Michael Coyle Solicitor and Director of Lawdit Solicitors an Intellectual Property practice, has encountered various problems with companies seeking to establish ownership.
"On several occasions client companies have failed in their attempts to assert ownership due to the lack of evidence as to 'who came first'. A service which provides both comfort and asserts ownership will prove to be invaluable" - Michael Coyle, Lawdit
Protect My Work was founded by two creatives that found their work being stolen when being pitched to potential clients. Some would steal their website graphic designs that had taken so much time and care to create and develop them elsewhere, assumingly at a cheaper rate. As well as the legal copyright of your work, we believe there are moral rights that should be honoured and by setting up Protect My Work, we aim to claim these rights and stop the theft of intellectual property and create a system of fair dealing across the creative community.
Protect My Work solves the most important issue of copyright and is an effective deterrent that helps solve copyright infringement disputes quickly, easily, as well as being cost effective.
By becoming a member and registering your work with us, we date and time stamp your intellectual property and show exactly when we received it, as well as assigning it a unique reference number, proving that the work was in existence at this time and was received by you.
We've made the process as quick and easy as possible, from signing up for an account and becoming a member to submitting and registering your work to our database. The entire process is immediate and on submission of your work, you'll receive a digital certificate for your work instantly.