Thursday, 18 February 2016

Copyright law made easy: Lesson 1

I’ll be explaining copyright law over the next week or two. So stand by for some (hopefully) simple answers to common copyright questions.

Let’s begin by defining copyright: what it means and who owns it.

It’s easier to think of it in terms of property rather than copyright ... a car for example.

If you own a car then no-one else can use it without asking you first. If they do, it’s illegal.

You can do whatever you like with your car. You can lend it to someone, rent it out for a day, sell it, give it away or leave it to someone in your will. Or you can just use it yourself and not let anyone else drive it.

Copyright’s the same. But instead of a car, we’re talking about property that someone creates: a photo, a book, some software, a play, a film, a drawing or painting, or some music.

If you create it, then you own it. The copyright’s yours, to do what you like with. And like the car, no-one else can use it without asking you first. If they do, it’s illegal.

So the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 protects your property rights. It is backed up with various EU directives and regulations. If someone uses your property without asking you, you can take them to court.

My simple rule for copyright law is: If you don’t own it, then someone else does – so get consent.

More on this later in the week.

See our Media law basics course

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