Copyright—subsistence and qualification

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

  • Copyright—subsistence and qualification
  • Qualifying for copyright protection
  • Protectable works
  • The subject matter as a copyright work
  • An original work
  • Skill and labour or author’s own intellectual creation
  • Permanent form
  • Ideas and expression of ideas
  • Computer programs
  • Infringing adaptations
  • More...

Copyright—subsistence and qualification

Qualifying for copyright protection

Copyright recognises the intellectual creation of an author when a work is created. The law is set out mainly in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988), which came into force on 1 August 1989. For works created before 1 August 1989, the earlier Copyright Acts of 1911 or 1956 should be examined.

Copyright is not a registered right which means that subsistence of the right is often not examined in detail until the owner wants to licence or assign it or use it as a cause of action when issuing proceedings.

Where copyright subsists in a work the owner is permitted to carry out various acts, such as being able to copy the work, for a period of time as long as the work qualifies for protection in the UK and (for literary, dramatic and musical works) has been expressed in a permanent form. The work must also fit into a description of work as set down in CDPA 1988, s 1(1).

In practice, one product tends to give rise to multiple rights. A cartoon, for example, is likely to have separate copyrights in the dialogue, sketches, graphics, sound recording and music. If a character, that is the subject of the cartoon, originated from a book, that book would also attract its own copyright. This is relevant to licensing

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