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Authors’ Originality of Expression and Copyright

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Improving accessibility to information increasingly necessitates an understanding of copyright laws and the protection granted to authors’ originality of expression. In the UK, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 governs the law relating to copyright protection for literary, dramatic, artistic, and musical works.

The Act does not require novelty or originality of thought or ideas for granting copyright protection but extends to all kinds of creative works that have an originality of expression. It is important to note that registration of works created is not required but they need to be fixed in some tangible medium before copyright protection can be claimed under the Act.

Authors’ Exclusive copyright

Authors have an exclusive copyright in the works that they create until a period of seventy years from the date of their death. The quality of the works is irrelevant as long as they contain a certain degree of originality in their expression that has been fixed in some material form.

In other words, mere ideas are not protected under the law; they have to be expressed and reduced to a fixed medium. The test of originality of expression requires that the works must reflect the intellectual personality and efforts of the authors and not be derived from existing works, save in cases where works are in the public domain. Works that do not originate from the author cannot be copyrighted and may even constitute infringement of existing works.

Copyright Ownership and Protection

The ownership of the copyright rests with authors themselves. This implies that authors of copyrighted works have an exclusive right to prevent others from enjoying or deriving any form of monetary benefits from their copyrighted works. Therefore, reproduction of copyrighted works without authors’ permission amount to infringement, and a suit for damages or injunction can be filed against the infringers.

In order to bring a successful claim, authors need to prove that the works were easily accessible and that the infringers have substantially reproduced them in another form. However, the rule does not apply to instances of fair use, assignments, licences, or where works have been produced in the course of employment.

Business and Copyright

Businesses must understand that copyright is one of the most important kinds of intellectual property right, and take necessary steps to prevent others from infringing their works. At the same time, businesses must also be constantly aware of using copyrighted works without permission to avoid infringement claims.

If you need advice regarding protection or use of copyright, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can help you. For more information please contact James Crichton via e-mail or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.