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Copyright is increasingly becoming an important part of academic life, whether you are a student, teacher, researcher or administrator and although UK law makes some allowances for educational and study purposes, these are limited dependent on the type of work, the specific use and the amount being used, and are also sometimes negated by the availability of licences.

These guidelines are designed to guide you through the complexities of copyright law and licensing, and to provide links to useful resources, support and a contact details to request further advice.

N.B. the contents of these guidelines should not be construed as legal advice.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an economic right which exists to protect an author/artist/creator from unfair exploitation of their work in order to encourage creativity and innovation. This means that others should not be able to use the work without permission or the owner receiving fair payment.

What does it protect?

Copyright protects the actual product resulting from a persons skill and creativity from being copied, reused, stolen or distributed, published, communicated to the public without permission. It doesn't protect ideas or designs for a new creation or invention but will protect the actual sketches and notes relating to the idea. Ideas and products can be protected by Design Right or Patents, although more than one type of protection could be applied to a single product, eg:

  • any drawings and notes would be automatically protected by copyright
  • a brand name or logo would be registered as Trademark, in addition to possibly automatically receiving copyright protection as an artistic work if it is creative
  • a product's unique shape could be protected by registered or unregistered design right
  • a completely original working part would be patented

Who owns the copyright?

Normally, the creator or creators (joint ownership) will own the copyright, but there are exceptions to this rule i.e.

  • if you are employed/contracted to create the work, your employer will own the copyright.
  • If you have assigned or sold your rights by to another, you no longer own the copyright.
  • If you have waived your rights, you cannot claim any rights.

It's important that you read through the terms of any contract relating to your work, as you may unknowingly be giving away your Intellectual Property entirely.

How long does copyright protection last?

Copyright protection exists automatically in the UK, from the moment a work is created, in any medium and usually lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years after the end of the year of their death. This may vary depending on the type and age of the work e.g. broadcasts are only protected for 50 years from the transmission.

How do I protect my copyright?

You don't have to register copyright in the UK, but must it be asserted to ensure protection of Moral rights e.g. right to be identified as the creator and protection from derogatory treatment or false attribution. This can be done by simply adding your name to the work, although the internationally recognised method is by also adding the © symbol with the year of creation and the statements e.g.

'All Rights Reserved' - Any reuse requires permission unless a legal exception applies or

'Some Rights Reserved'- normally added in conjunction with licensing information or  terms of use allowing specific uses.

In the event of a copyright ownership dispute, you should also be able to prove when you created the work.

Please go to the relevant subsections of the menu on the left of this screen for further information.

  • Further Information

    • The law

      The current UK law on Copyright is the 'Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988' and various amendments and regulations.

    • How does copyright law affect me?

      Copyright law provides some exceptions for private study, education and public accessibility. For more information on using copyright protected work in your research and studies, please go to your subject area.

    • Who owns my work?

      In the majority of cases, you will own the copyright in your work unless you have knowingly and formally agreed otherwise i.e. by signed contract. 
      If your work was produced collaboratively with other persons, the ownership will be joint. 

      Please see the Middlesex University Policy Statement , Intellectual Property Rights: Students

    • Related rights

      Rights incorporated into the Copyright Act include Moral Rights and Performance Rights

    • Need to know more?

      For further general information on Copyright please see the Copyright Guidelines  or select your specific subject or type of work from the drop boxes.

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