If your business involves the creation of material which has or may come to have commercial value – for example books, newspaper articles, course materials, sound recordings including CDs, tapes, audio files, films including videos, broadcasts, audio visual files, artistic works including paintings and photographs, dramatic and musical works – then you ought to be aware at the outset of the significance of the intellectual property in such material, the risks to your assets and what to do to minimise the risk.

There is no official registration system for copyright in the UK and most other parts of the world. There are no forms to fill in and no fees to pay to get copyright protection. Copyright protection arises automatically. One of its main purposes is to allow originators of copyright material to gain economic reward for the work they produce. It is a right “arising automatically on the expression of an idea in a tangible form”. This means an idea is not protected by copyright unless recorded in some way. Copyright gives legal protection to creators of certain kinds of works to prevent unfair use of those works.  While it is common to see copyright works marked with the international copyright symbol © this is not necessary in the UK to obtain copyright. However it is still advisable to mark it with the © symbol, the name of the copyright owner and the year of publication. Although this is not essential, it will let others know when the term of protection started and hence whether it is still covered by copyright, and indicate who to approach should they need to ask permission to use the work.

To help safeguard your position regarding proof of your copyright it is also an idea to formally lodge with a solicitor the original manuscript or whatever along with the drafts and notes and indeed anything which could be produced as evidence that the copyright work originated with and was created by you.

Nothing in this awareness article is intended as legal advice. If you have a specific legal requirement or query you should consult a solicitor directly.