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Copyright is an intellectual property right relating to a creative work, which generally belongs to the creator (author) of that work, but which can be assigned to another person (the holder of the copyright).

The types of creative work to which copyright can attach (or in which it can ‘subsist’) are defined in section 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 * as

“(a) original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, (b) sound recordings, films or broadcasts, and (c) the typographical arrangement of published editions.”

There are refinements and explanations of those definitions in other sections of the Act (which has been amended from time to time to keep up with digital technologies). For example, by section 3(1) a ‘literary work’ can include a computer program or a database, but by subsection (2)  “Copyright does not subsist in a literary, dramatic or musical work unless and until it is recorded, in writing or otherwise…”

Copyright is infringed by another person if that other person makes use of the work in certain ways without the consent of the copyright holder. Plagiarism (copying someone’s work and passing it off as your own), or republishing someone’s work without their permission, are obvious examples.

There is no need to register copyright in the same way as some other types of intellectual property right, before relying on it to assert or pursue a claim for infringement of that right.

* Incidentally, the wording of legislation (Acts of Parliament, Statutory Instruments etc) is protected by Crown Copyright, but can be reused under the Open Government Licence for public sector information (v 3.0).


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