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Finding a document or an image, perhaps online, that perfectly fits the project you are working on can be deeply satisfying. However, various questions arise (or should arise) such as: how do I know I can use it, are there any restrictions on use and do I need to do anything before I use it?
What is a copyright work?
A sensible starting position would be to acknowledge that copyright may exist in a work. Copyright recognises the skill and labour expended by an author in creating a work but this is not so much about ideas as about the way they are expressed. In the UK, copyright is not a registered right: it arises automatically in specified categories of works. These categories are original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, sound recordings, films or broadcasts, and typographical arrangements of published editions. A degree of skill, judgment and labour is required for copyright to subsist but there is a low standard for this in the UK. It is likely that an 'arty' image or a published article would have copyright protection.
A work may in fact, be comprised of many works, each with its own copyright protection. For example, audio-visual works such as film and television works, may contain moving and still images, speech and music.
If a work is protected by copyright it gives the owner a right to restrict what happens to that work. If a work is protected by copyright you can't copy the work, issue copies of it to the public, rent or lend it, perform, show or play it in public, communicate it, adapt it, or do any of the restricted acts just mentioned in relation to an adaptation, without permission.
Is it in copyright?
It is more likely than not that the target work is in copyright. Some works are in the 'public domain'. This means that they were protected by copyright but the term of copyright has expired, or copyright doesn’t apply for
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