Copyright—authorship and ownership

The following IP practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copyright—authorship and ownership
  • Authorship
  • Authorship in primary and secondary works
  • Joint authorship
  • Co-authorship
  • Unknown authorship
  • Ownership
  • First owner
  • Presumptions as to works
  • Joint ownership
  • More...

Copyright—authorship and ownership

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) defines the author of a work as the person who created it. The author as creator is not always the owner of a work, although it is usually the case that he is the first owner of copyright unless employed, in which case the employer is (see below).

The identity of the author of a work is relevant to many areas of copyright law. For example, the copyright term is usually measured by reference to the author's life; an author can claim moral rights; and copyright may not even subsist unless the author has the necessary qualifying status for protection.

It is also important to identify the owner of the copyright work, for example title and ownership should be established before purchasing or taking a licence of a work.


Authorship in primary and secondary works

For works made on or after 1 August 1989 authorship is determined in accordance with CDPA 1988. For works made before that date questions of authorship are determined in accordance with the law applicable at the time the work was made.

For original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, CDPA 1988, s 9 defines the author of each category of work; the result is that the person who creates each work is usually the author of that work. For example, the author is

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