IOLIS Legal Services

UK Copyright Advice and Guidance

Understanding Copyright

Do you produce creative work such as photography, designs or copy? Do you use other peoples creative work in your business? We can help you understand the law and how to use and protect intellectual property safely and legally.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a legal right that protects against the unauthorised reproduction of creative works such as books, photographs, music, paintings, and other kinds of artistic expression.

Business reports, paperwork, document templates, computer software, website content, emails, and other items can all be considered creative works.

In the United Kingdom and most of the rest of the globe, protection is automatic and does not require registration. It normally lasts for 70 years after the author's death.

The originator of the creative work may not be the copyright holder. It is possible to sell a piece of work's copyright, or the copyright may have been assigned as part of an agreement for the creation of the work.

What is licencing?

Copyright licensing is a way of allowing someone to use creative content for specific uses without giving up the ownership of the material. It is a bit like the user renting the content but with a few more restrictions on what they can use it for.

There are different types of licence, sometimes a licence may be 'exclusive' meaning that only one person will be allowed to use the material, or non-exclusive, such as pictures from stock libraries - you may see the same images on different websites for example.

Licensing is a way for creative people to make money from their work. This is usually how software is sold - you purchase a licence to use it.

What about collaborating?

Sometimes creative people work together to produce work. Musical works are often the product of a melody written by one person and lyrics written by someone else.

It is important that there are good agreements in place when you collaborate with someone s that everything is clear, especially on how licence sales (known as royalties) are divided between contributors. 

The other important thing to understand about collaboration, is that any use of the creative end result requires the permission of ALL the copyright holders for it to be licensed, used in a specific way, or otherwise sold.

How is music more complicated?

Music copyright can be a little more tricky to understand because of the different elements that go into a piece of music.

For example, a recording of a work by J.S. Bach. The copyright in the actual composition has long since lapsed. There is no copyright on the original music.

But a recording does have copyright protection. The conductor, orchestra or musician will own the copyright of their interpretation of the original. Likewise, any written arrangement or modern manuscript may also be protected under copyright.

So you need to be careful about using a recording of 'old' music to accompany your slide show... You need to make sure you have the proper licences to do this or the permission of the person who made the recording.
brown violin with case

Do you need advice on copyright? Tell us how we can help you.

Call us to start the conversation on 0330 043 4812 or email

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