Copyright protects the expression of original creative works, such as drawings, photographs, written works, software code, sculptures, music and films.
Do I have to register copyright?

No, at least not in the UK where there’s no copyright registration system. Copyright comes into existence automatically when a suitable work is created. Keeping records is therefore important in case it should ever be necessary to prove ownership of the copyright. It’s good practice to preserve the original work and to mark it with the copyright symbol ©, the date and the name of the copyright owner.

If you commission someone else, e.g. a photographer or a programmer, to create original works, the copyright does not automatically belong to you: it is important to get it assigned in writing.

What protection does copyright provide?

As a copyright owner, you can stop other people from, for example, copying your work, making adaptations/translations of it or distributing or selling copies of it.

How is copyright infringed?

Copyright is infringed by a person who reproduces a “substantial part” of the work – simply making minor changes will not be sufficient to avoid infringement.


Copyright is also infringed by a person who knowingly imports, keeps or sells an infringing copy. However if it is possible to prove that a similar work has been created independently, without copying, there is no copyright infringement.

How long does copyright last?

Copyright lasts for seventy years from the death of the creator. In the UK, for designs that have been applied industrially, the term of protection used to be twenty-five years but on 28 July 2016 the law changed so that the term of protection for these designs is now the same as that afforded to other artistic works. The change has retrospective effect so that industrially applied designs whose copyright protection had previously expired under the twenty-five year rule now have their protection restored. Transitional provisions ended on 28 January 2017 and allowed businesses to sell off existing stock of items that were previously unprotected but have now had their copyright protection restored.

More about copyright

For further information about copyright, including who owns it and the protection it provides, please visit our useful resources section.

Please call us on +44 (0) 116 233 2626 for any further advice about copyright.