What steps can I take to protect my copyright?

Copyright protects your work and prevents others from using it, without your consent.

Copyright protection arises automatically – you do not have to apply for or register it, but you do have to protect yourself and prove your case, if you are ever caught up in a litigation, or a copyright infringement case.

Copyright will protect a variety of different types of commercially valuable works including such things as software code, illustrations, photography, the layout of written works and also sound and music recordings.

Now, the below, this is really important as many people misunderstand the situation.

It is possible to mark your work with the copyright symbol (©), which signifies that copyright is being claimed. However, just by using that symbol DOES NOT in itself create legal rights or guarantee protection. Also, you WILL NOT have any less protection if you DO NOT use the mark.

In addition to marking your work, there are other steps that you can take to protect your copyright. These include registering it with a private database and also keeping evidence of its creation. In addition, if you are working with a third party on the creation of the work, you should ensure that you have an agreement with them in relation to copyright ownership between you.

The existence of copyright prevents other people from:

Copying it for their own use

Publishing it on the internet

Distributing copies of your work, whether or not for free, performing your work in public, adapting your work in some way Do you think that someone else is using your work?

If you think that someone else is using your work then you may well have legal rights that you can exercise to protect it. These include applying to the court for an order (injunction) to stop someone using your work and also claiming damages and legal costs from them.

What you should do, if you think that your work is being infringed?

In the first instance it is wise to seek advice from a lawyer experienced in this area before embarking on any legal action. Copyright infringement cases can be complicated and expensive - you should ensure that you are on solid ground legally before contemplating bringing legal proceedings against a third party.

What happens if you want to make money out of your work?

You may wish to exploit your copyright commercially, by licensing its use to a third party. By using a properly drafted licence agreement you can retain a significant degree of control over the use of your copyright.

Examples of licensing copyright include the performance of artistic works, the publication of literary works and also the use of copyright in a commercial context, such as through a franchise network.

If you require any advice on copyright or other intellectual property issues including a full audit of the intellectual property rights within your business, please contact our Corporate & Commercial team.