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Writers and authors often need to use other people’s material in articles they write. This could be information taken from a book, website or magazine, or a speech or interview.

Everything they use is someone else’s copyright; in other words, it’s someone else’s property.

That doesn’t mean you can’t se it. But it’s important to have knowledge of UK copyright laws so you don’t get into trouble.

Common things that cause copyright porblems include

  • photos
  • logos
  • text

What is copyright?

The act governing copyright in the UK is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA 1988). This act has been changed several times by European Union directives.

Copyright covers the product of people’s labour, skill, creativity and time.

There is no copyright on ideas. They have to be expressed before any copyright exists.

Work must be ‘written down, recorded, filmed, put onto a computer or photographed etc.

Copyright means ownership of the following types of work:

  • Literary: This includes books, newspapers, articles and magazines and the writing that goes into them.
  • Dramatic: Something that can be performed.
  • Music.
  • Graphic – including photos, graphics, maps, drawings etc. Publishing all or part of these things without permission is a breach of copyright. This also applies even if they’re adapted to create a new sketch to illustrate a new document.
  • Films, broadcasts and sound recordings.

Copyright is often described as ‘intellectual property’ and, like other items of property, can be sold, given away, bequeathed, split up or retained.

Copyright is usually owned by the creator of the original work, unless or until they sell it to someone else.

For copyright to change hands, an agreement must be signed in writing.

It’s a criminal offence to reproduce any copyright material from a website and put it onto another if you know or believe the work was copyright.

Copyright starts when the work is first created and lasts 70 years from when the originator of the work dies (no matter who owns the copyright).

If there is any dispute, the copyright owner has to prove the  work is original.

Copyright in the UK doesn’t have to be registered as it applies automatically.

UK copyright laws are generally recognised throughout the EU, US and other countries.

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