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A brief overview on Copyright


Lawdit Solicitors - Expert Author

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22 August 2013

  1. What is copyrighted?
  2. How do you copyright?
  3. Who owns a Copyright?
  4. How long is a copyright valid for?
  5. What rights are protected under copyright?
  6. What are the remedies available to an author for infringement copyright?

What exactly is copyrighted?

There is a common misconception that under the CDPA a song is copyrighted completely as a single package. In all actuality, different parts of a song each have their own individual copyright. For example:

The lyrics of a song are protected as a literary work. Literary work is defined by section 3(1) as any work, other than a dramatic or musical work which is written, spoken or sung.

The accompanying music to the lyrics is protected under its own heading of copyright. The actual recording of the song is protected under the heading of “sound recording”. Sound recording is defined as a recording of Sounds, from which sounds may be reproduced; or all or part of a literary, dramatic, or musical work, from which sounds reproducing that work or part may be produced.

Section 5A(1) specifically excludes copyright from subsisting from sound recordings which are a copy of a previous sound recording. It should be mentioned, if a song is part of a soundtrack to a film for the purpose of copyright it will be considered part of the film, and thus will be protected under Section 5B(2).

How do you copyright?

Copyright is an automatic right. In order for a song to qualify for copyright protection, the author of the music must match the description of a qualifying person under the CDPA. A qualifying person is described under the CDPA as:

A person of British nationality i.e. a person who is domiciled or a resident in the UK (or another country to which the CDPA extends); or a company who is incorporated in the UK (or another country to which the CDPA extends).

Copyright will also be granted regardless of if the person is qualifying if the work was first published in the UK or a country to which the CDPA extends.

Who owns a copyright?

Under the CDPA, the owner of a copyright will generally be the author:

Section 9(1) defines an author simply as a person who creates a work. This includes (but by no means is limited to): The producer of a sound recording, which is defined in section 178 of the Act as the person who made the arrangements necessary for making the sound recording; and the producer and principal director of a film, the producer is defined under section 178 as the person who made the arrangements necessary for making the film.

If there are two or more authors, normally a joint authorship will exist. A joint author has the same rights under copyright law as a sole author. However, a joint author may be liable to one of his other co-authors if he does an act restricted by copyright without their permission. It should be mentioned, that a joint authorship however, only applies if the contribution of the authors is not distinct. This is determined on the facts. If the works are found to be distinct, the work will be considered as two (or more) separate works.

How long is a copyright valid for?

The length of the validity of copyright differs depending on the type of copyright. Literary and musical copyright exists 70 years after the calendar year in which the last known author dies. If the author is unknown, the length of the validity of copyright is valid for up to 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made and made available to the public. In regards to sound recordings, a copyright is valid for a period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the recording is made, published or communicated in public. As mentioned above, a sound track is considered to be part of a film. The copyright of a film exists until the death of the last known specified person. If the author or specified person is unknown, the copyright exists until 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the film was: made; or made available to the public.

What rights are protected under copyright?

Copyright restricts those who are not the author, or those who have not acquired the proper permission, from doing certain acts. By doing these acts, or authorising another to do these acts, a person will have infringed copyright. There are two types of copyright infringement, primary infringement and secondary infringement.  if a person does one of the following, without permission, they will have committed copyright infringement: 

  • Copying a copyright work.
  • Issuing copies of the copyright work to the public.
  •  Renting or lending the work to the public.
  • Performing, showing or playing a copyright work in public.
  • Communicating the work to the public.
  • Making an adaptation of a copyright work or doing any of the acts listed above in relation to an adaptation.

Primary infringement is a strict liability offence, whilst secondary infringement requires the defendant to have specified knowledge, or reasonable grounds for having such knowledge at the time of the infringement.

When considering copyright infringement, it should be minded that it is not necessary for a restricted act to be committed in respect of the entire song. All that is required is that a restricted act is committed in respect of the whole or substantial part of the work. What constitutes the whole or substantive part of the work will differ depending on the facts.

The test for determining whether a person has committed copyright infringement is very rigid. However, there are a number of exceptions. One of the most notable (albeit limited) exception is playing music in a public place where the audience has not paid for admission.

What are the remedies available to an author for infringement copyright?

Infringing copyright will result in the same methods of relief for breach of other intellectual property rights. This means that the majority of cases for copyright infringement result in either financial damages awarded from the infringer to the author, and/or an injunction granted to stop the infringer from continuing his actions any further.

Written by Harmeet Anand Work Experience 

About the Author

Lawdit Solicitors offer services and advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2013-09-04 09:09:16 in Legal Articles

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