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The Copyright Symbol

Updated on January 22, 2010


The law, in Britain, relating to copyright is contained in the Copyright Act 1956, and in the rules and orders in council made under that act. Copyright in original literary, dramatic, or musical works means the exclusive right for the copyright owner to do, or to authorise other persons to do, one or more of the following acts: to reproduce the work in any material form; to publish the work; to perform it in public; to broadcast it, or cause it to be transmitted to subscribers to a diffusion service, or to make an adaptation of the work by translating it, by converting a non-dramatic work into a dramatic work and vice versa, or, in the case of a musical work, by making an arrangement or transcription of the work. Copyright in artistic works, which include works of architecture, photographs, maps, and charts, means the exclusive right for the copyright owner to reproduce the work in any material form; or to publish the work or to include it in a television broadcast, including a television broadcast to subscribers to a diffusion service. Copyright also protects the maker of a sound recording, such as a gramophone record, or a film or sound or television broadcast from having his work broadcast or caused to be heard in public without his permission. In relation to a published edition of a literary, dramatic or musical work copyright means the exclusive right of the publisher to the use of the typographical arrangement.


The subsistence of copyright does not now depend on registration, as it does, for example, in the USA, or any other formality. The requirement of registration at Stationers' Hall under the act of 1842 was terminated in 1911 though, on the payment of a fee and filing of copies, books and works of fine art can still be registered. Under the 1956 act copyright subsists in an original work if either it was first published in the UK or if the author was a qualified person, for instance a British subject or a person domiciled or resident in the UK. Publication is defined as the issue of reproductions of the work to the public which must not be merely colourable, but must be intended to satisfy the reasonable requirements of the public. Publication in the UK or in any other Bern Convention country is not treated as other than first publication by reason of an earlier publication elsewhere if the two publications take place within a period of 30 days. The performance or the issue of records of a dramatic or musical work, the construction of a work of architecture or the issue of photographs of engravings or works of sculpture and architecture does not constitute publication. A dramatic or musical work is published only if copies of the work in question are issued to the public.


In the case of literary, dramatic, or musical works the period of protection, if the work was published before the author's death, is 50 years from the end of the year in which the author died or, if unpublished at the author's death, is 50 years from the end of the year in which it was first published, performed, recorded, or broadcast. The term is the same for artistic works, except for photographs, in which case it is 50 years from the date of first publication. Copyright in anonymous and pseudonymous works extends for 50 years from the date of first publication, though the ordinary term will apply if, before the expiration of that time, the identity of the author can be established. Copyright in joint works extends for 50 years after the death of the author who dies last. Copyright in a published edition extends for 25 years from the dare of publication. A copyright term of 50 years is given by the act to sound recordings from the end of the calendar year in which the recording was first published; to sound broadcasts from the end of the calendar year in which the broadcast was first made; and to films from the end of the calendar year in which the film is registered under the Films Act 1960, or, if not registrable, from the end of the calendar year which includes the date of the first publication.


Prima facie, copyright belongs to the author of the work. In the case of a portrait, engraving, or photograph commissioned for money, it belongs to the commissioner. In the case of a work produced in the course of employment by a person under a contract of employment or apprenticeship, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, copyright belongs to the employer, though in the case of work so produced for a newspaper, magazine, or periodical, the paper will own only the newspaper or periodical rights and all other rights belong to the author. The copyright in sound recordings and films belongs to the maker, while the copyright in published editions is vested in the publisher. The BBC and IBA, as the case may be, are entitled to copyright in a sound or television broadcast made by them.

The author or other owner of the copyright may in writing assign the copyright or any part of it or grant an exclusive licence in respect of it and with or without writing may grant an ordinary licence. Assignments and licences may relate to the copyright in works not yet in existence. Copyright may also be disposed by will, and the bequest of an unpublished manuscript will, unless otherwise stated in the will, carry with it the ownership of the copyright.


Copyright is infringed by the unauthorised exercise of one of the rights vested in the owner of that copyright, e.g. publication or performance of the work by authorising someone else to exercise such a right. It is also infringed by a person who imports or sells any work which to his knowledge constitutes an infringement. Certain defences are, however, available to the alleged infringer. Fair dealing with any work for the purpose of private study, research, criticism, or review, does not constitute an infringement of copyright, neither does the reporting of current events in a newspaper or periodical or by broadcasting or cinematograph film. The reading or recitation in public (other than by broadcasting) of any reasonable extract from a published literary or dramatic work, or the inclusion of a short passage in a collection intended for the use of schools, is not an infringement of copyright provided that a sufficient acknowledgement is made. The author of an artistic work, provided he does not repeat the main design of his work, may, although he has assigned his copyright, make further use of any mould, sketch, or plan of his work, without infringing copyright. Librarians of approved non-profit-making libraries may, under Department of Trade regulations, supply to individuals for research or private study, single copies of articles from periodicals or reasonable extracts from books without permission provided that the name and address of the person entitled to give the permission cannot be traced by reasonable inquiry. Copyright works may also be reproduced, otherwise than by a duplicating process, in the course of instruction and in examination questions and answers, A person who has permitted a theatre or other place of entertainment to be used for the performance in public of a work, without having obtained the consent of the copyright owner, which would otherwise be an infringement, will have a defence if he had no reasonable ground for suspecting that the performance would be an infringement of copyright or if the permission was given gratuitously.


The civil remedies for infringement of copyright are an action for damages, or alternatively, a claim for an account of profits, and an injunction in cases where repetition is apprehended; also an order that all copies printed and published and all plates used or intended to be used for the production of the infringing copies are delivered up to the copyright owner. Under the Dramatic and Musical Performers' Protection Act 1958, it is an offence, punishable by fine, for a person knowingly to make record, film, or broadcast without the consent in writing of the performers.


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    • onlinelawyer profile image

      onlinelawyer 7 years ago

      Thanks for this info - very comprehensive and well written article.