Introduction to Copyright Law in the UK

This article seeks to provide an introduction into copyright law in the UK by outlining the basics and highlighting the relevant laws.

This article seeks to provide an introduction to copyright law in the United Kingdom. The article will explain the laws surrounding copyright in the UK and also explain what rights are afforded to the copyright holder. Copyright law has been in development since 1709 when the Statute of Anne prescribed for the protection of printed books. The law has grown, both nationally and internationally and although countries retain some differences in national law, they all do have to provide for international regulations, e.g. the TRIPs agreement and the Berne Convention.

Copyright law is protected in the UK by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA Act) and replaced the former Copyright Act of 1956 and 1911. Authors of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, sound recordings, broadcasts, films and typographical arrangement of published editions, can protect their work using copyright.

Copyright is given to an author for any original work that has a degree of labor and skill automatically. The duration of copyright differs depending on what the original work is:

  1. For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works - 70 years from the year in which the last remaining author of the work dies.
  2. Sound Recordings and broadcasts - 50 years from the year in which the work was created.
  3. Films - 70 years from the  year in which the last principal director, author or composer dies.
  4. Typographical arrangement of published editions - 25 years from the year in which the work was first published.
  5. Broadcasts - 50 years from the year in which the broadcast was made.
  6. Crown Copyright - 125 years from the year in which the work was made.
  7. Parliamentary Copyright - 50 years from the year in which the work was made.

Authors are afforded a number of rights; the author is protected for copying the work; rent, lend or issue copies of the work to the public; perform, broadcast or show the work in public; adapt the work; the right to be identified as the author; and the right to object to derogatory treatment.

Under the expression 'fair dealing' some degree of permitted acts are allowed for educational purposes; performance, copies or lending for educational purposes; criticism and news reporting; copies and lending by libraries, amongst others.

The Copyright and Related Rights Regulations (2003) implemented the EU Directive (2001). Further rights were prescribed, including protecting computer programs as literary works. Some computer programs can be patented and patents will be discussed in another article.

In conclusion, the subject of copyright has taken a prominent position in the 21st century. With the development of the internet and the ability to share copyrighted material quickly and easily over the internet, mass infringement of rights holders has been at the forefront of current affairs.

This is also an area of the law that will continue to command academic discussion as well as constant legal changes, due to the fact of the rate of change in today's technological areas that allows for the infringement of copyright law in the UK and the world.


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