Any original content you create is protected by copyright in the UK. It is the responsibility of authors and their publishers to protect, police and enforce their intellectual property. Copyright in the UK is automatic. You do not need to register your work to make sure it is covered by copyright protection, or pay a company to register it. You can mark your work with the copyright symbol if you want to, although in law it’s assumed.
Copyright protects your work from being:
- Shared on the internet
- Performed in public
Written works are protected by copyright in the UK for 70 years after the author’s death.
You can sell or transfer copyright by signing a document called an assignment. You can choose if you want to keep or waive your moral rights as the author. The moral rights of an author means that you have a right to be identified as the author of the work and can object to how the work is presented or any changes that are made to your work.
If an organisation wants to use copyrighted work but do not know who holds the rights then they must apply for a licence.
If you realise someone is using your work without asking for permission you can apply to have the application stopped or claim the licence fee that has been paid.
If you need any legal advice about your copyright you can get in touch with one of these organisations:
- Society of Authors
- Writers’ Guild of Great Britain
- Society for Editors and Proofreaders
The rights that protect you also protect others. So, use of other people’s work without permission and/or attribution leaves an author open to legal action. There is a vast amount of copyright infringement on the internet, and it is not a reliable source for copyright permission. Always seek permission from the author or publisher, and check any terms and conditions of rights if they are under Creative Commons, or other rights that might appear to permit use. The small print can often reveal that commercial use is not permitted.
If in doubt, seek legal advice.