Copyright essentials


Relationship between IPR & Copyright

Copyright is one of a number of laws and rights that govern Intellectual Property Rights in the UK and elsewhere.  These include:

  • Copyright
  • Moral rights
  • Performance rights
  • Database rights
  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Designs 

What is copyright?

  • Copyright is the legal right governing who may copy or adapt a piece of intellectual property
  • It is a property right, providing legal protection to the owners of works
  • It is time restricted, but timings differ according to media
  • It can be granted or sold in different ways, e.g. an author can grant permission for their work to be used in different formats, in different territories, for particular periods of time 

What does copyright apply to?

  • Ideas and facts are not copyrightable but something made tangible into a fixed and copyable form is
  • Eight categories of work are copyrightable:
    • literary works
    • dramatic works
    • musical works
    • artistic works
    • sound recordings
    • films
    • broadcasts
    • typographical arrangements of published editions
  • What is produced must be original
  • Skill and judgement is required, proportionate to your ability
  • If all these criteria are in place copyright automatically exists, it does not need to be registered

 Who owns copyright?

  • Typically the creator of the work, but not inevitably
  • Work undertaken by an employee within an organisations, including universities like King’s, is owned by the institution
  • King’s typically (but not always) waives the copyright to work by researchers to enable scholarly publication of academic books and journal articles etc
  • Funders and grant awarding bodies may sometimes claim an interest as a condition of the grant. Commissioned work is usually owned by the commissioning agency.
  • See King’s Code of Practice for Intellectual Property, Commercial Exploitation & Financial Benefits

How long does copyright last?

Copyright protection starts as soon as a work is created. Once copyright has expired, anyone can use or copy the work. The length of copyright depends on the type of work. 

UK Copyright Duration

 Type of work

How long copyright usually lasts

Written, dramatic, musical and artistic work

70 years after the author’s death

Sound and music recording

70 years from when it’s first published


70 years after the death of the director, screenplay author or composer


50 years from when it’s first broadcast

Layout of published editions of written, dramatic or musical works 

25 years from when it’s first published

Using copyright material

See Copyright & Teaching and Copyright & Research pages

  • When planning to use material that is or may be copyrighted, consider the following questions:
    • Where are you using the material? A web page? In the VLE? Some printed publicity material?  Material that is freely available online has a higher risk of being identified as infringing copyright.
    • Can you acceptably substitute another resource that doesn't have copyright restrictions? 
  • How to copy legitimately:
    • Use a work that you are free to use without requesting permission, e.g. a work licensed by Creative Commons licence such as CC-BY
    • Own the work
    • Buy or operate under a licence
    • Use an exception in UK law
    • Seek permission from the rights owner
  • Last Updated Aug 24, 2022
  • Views 1043
  • Answered By Pete Garner

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