A general overview of different types of work with information on who owns the copyright and how long the copyright protection lasts is provided in this Table of Ownership and Duration by Type of Work.
In almost all cases, the creator/author is the first owner of copyright, unless s/he has assigned the copyright to someone else, e.g. the publisher. However, if the work was commissioned by another party, or was created whilst employed by another organisation, on request or as part of the normal course of employment, the copyright belongs to the commissioner or employer (depending on the terms of the contract). Copyright runs for life plus 70 years from the end of year of the death of the author/creator, or 70 years from public availability if the author/creator is unknown. Where there is a joint authorship, the 70 years is calculated from the end of the year of death, of the last author to die.
The artist/creator is the first owner of copyright, unless s/he has assigned the copyright to someone else. If the work was commissioned by another party, or was created whilst employed by another organisation, on request or as part of the normal course of employment, the copyright belongs to the commissioner or employer (depending on the terms of the contract). Copyright runs for life plus 70 years from the end of year of the death of the artist/creator, or 70 years from public availability if the artist/creator is unknown.
The composer and the writer of the lyrics each hold copyright in their own particular work, which again is calculated as, life plus 70 years from the end of the year of death of the last person to die.
The 70 year protection only covers the physical written/printed sheet music or lyrics (see below for sound recordings and performances).
A publisher may not own the copyright in the content of a published edition, but he will own copyright in the typographical arrangement and any footnotes etc. Therefore, a particular work may be out of copyright, but the edition at hand may still have typographical copyright, depending
on the year of publication e.g. Shakespeare's plays: the original content is out of copyright but for any recent editions, typographical copyright subsists for 25 years from the end of the year the edition was first published.
When a work is made by an officer or servant of the crown, or by the Queen herself, in the course of normal duties, it is governed by Crown Copyright which lasts for 125 years from the end of year of creation, unless it is published within 75 years. If published, copyright last for just 50 years from the date of publication. If a work is commissioned, the creator usually retains his/her copyright which lasts life plus 50 years after the year of death. Parliamentary copyright is much the same as Crown copyright in that it lasts 50 years from the end of year of creation and is controlled by the relative House of Parliament. However, copyright in Bills, ends upon Royal Assent or if Assent not received, upon withdrawal or rejection, or the end of the parliamentary session.
There is full information in the following two files:
Ownership and Duration of Photographs both published and unpublished
The Director, Screenplay Author, Dialogue Author and Music Composer, each own copyright in their respective works. The copyright of a film will exist until 70 years after the end of the year of death of the last remaining owner i.e. the director, screenplay author, dialogue author or music composer.
The Broadcaster usually owns copyright in all programmes, unless otherwise contracted e.g Copyright for Michael Palins 'Pole to Pole' series; , although broadcast by the BBC, is actually owned by Michael Palins production company, 'Prominent Television'. Broadcast copyright lasts for 50 years from the end of year of release.
Copyright belongs jointly to the creator/ producer and performer and lasts for 70 years from the end of the year first released/published, played in public or broadcast. The EU recently increased this protection to 70 years but the increase is not retrospective therefore will not revive copyright that has recently expired.
A performance does not necessarily have to be a theatrical or musical performance. A recital, a speech or delivery of a lecture could also qualify as performances if creative or unique.
A performer retains all rights in a performance, whether live or recorded. Copyright and moral rights subsists for 70 years from the end of year the performance took place, or if recorded within this period, 70 years from the end of year the recording was released. Performance in sound recordings has been increased to 70 years to conform with the EU Directive.
Computer Programs and any work published electronically, are afforded the same copyright as Literary works, being 70 years from end of year of the death of creator, or 70 years from the end of year of publication. However, since the Database Regulations Act of 1997, Databases are treated differently, depending on the originality of the content.
Databases are treated differently, depending on the originality of the content.
Multimedia products are made up of several copyrighted works of differing ownership's and lifetimes, making it extremely difficult to identify the owners of rights, or obtain permissions. Other copyright problems exist within multimedia products. There are the varying copyright laws from country to country e.g. fair dealing may be permitted for educational purposes in one country but not another. Also, the problem of moral rights exists. If a portion were copied or amended, it may be deemed derogatory treatment of the work.
All electronic media is afforded the same copyright restrictions as all copyright works. E-mail messages, web pages and anything available on the internet has copyright attached just as any other work. Because it is available free of charge does not imply that it's free to copy. Fair dealing would probably apply for own use e.g. downloading a single copy for private study, but forwarding the material to someone else, either electronically or by print would be an infringement. Some web sites actually give permission to copy for educational purposes in their copyright statements, but unless this is actually stated, permission should always be sought.
Linking/Deep Linking It has always been considered courteous to request permission for linking to a website although it is not strictly copyright infringement.
However recent cases in Germany and the U.S. have ruled that deep linking is not copyright infringement, but must always open in a new browser window and full acknowledgement of the source is absolutely imperative.
Unpublished works should never be copied without the permission of the author. These could be a Theses, Dissertations, Personal letters, Manuscripts etc.
The term 'Orphan' works refers to copyright work where the creator or copyright owner cannot be identified or traced This creates a problem for anyone wishing to use the work as permission cannot be obtained and licensing is not possible.
Trademarks or logos can be a name, design or even a colour, but to receive protection they must be registered and renewed every 10 years provided the trademark is still actively being used in trade. Trademark or logo designs can also be protected by copyright as an artistic work. Where disputes arise (particularly with cross border trading companies with the same names), the courts usually decide.
Designs are automatically protected by copyright as artistic works or by Design Right (in the UK only) from the moment they are created. However they may also be further protected from copying or unauthorised commercial exploitation by registering as a Registered Design.
For further information, go to the 'Intellectual Property Office' Website at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/design.htm
Patents protect new, original ideas and inventions, by registration which is renewable every 20 years. Patent applications are made through the Patents Office and can take a long time to approve. It is important to keep ideas secret as there is a strict requirement for novelty/originality.
For further information or advice, go to the Intellectual Property Office website at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/patent.htm
Moral rights apply to any work that is protected by copyright but unlike Copyright cannot be sold or transferred and must be asserted unless they are to be waived. They last for the duration of the copyright except for false attribution which only lasts for 20 years from the death of the creator.
Moral Rights do not apply where an employer owns the copyright.
There are 4 main moral rights:
A person who has commissioned the taking of a photograph or the making of a film for private and domestic purposes, although they may not own the copyright, retains a moral right to privacy in those photographs and films for as long as the copyright subsists.
For more information on student or staff Intellectual Property please see the Middlesex University Policy Statements at:
Intellectual Property Rights: Students Intellectual Property Rights and Revenue Policy (Staff) - HRPS25
Or contact the Middlesex University Research Office at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For general copyright advice email K.Vasili@mdx.ac.uk