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2020 Copyright and IP


Our guidance on intellectual property cannot be used as legal advice or opinion.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has more detailed information on intellectual property in the UK. The IPO also provides general information on copyright.

For more information and support, you can access information or book on to an event with the BIPC .

Publishing contracts

When you sign a contract to publish a research article or book, the copyright is often assigned to the publisher. This can limit how you use your work.

It's important that you understand what rights your contract gives you to reuse your work. If you are unhappy with the contract you can try to negotiate changes.


Intellectual property rights

When you create new ideas, products and processes, these rights give you control over how your work is used. They also give you the ability to benefit from that use. The Copyright, Designs and Patients Act 1988 has more information.

The University has an Intellectual property policy. It explains how the University's intellectual property position relates to staff and students.

There are four main forms of Intellectual Property (IP):

  • Designs - the appearance of an item e.g. a logo or a diamond brooch

  • Copyright - works that are physically recorded e.g. written, photographed or painted

  • Patents - cover inventions (and how they work) e.g. a chemical formula or a new mouse trap

  • Trademarks - cover signs and logos that identify brands or products and services e.g. Microsoft, Dyson or Ford


Who owns copyright?

In UK law the first owner of copyright in a work is the 'author' or 'creator' of the work. This can be an individual or an organisation, as in cases where a work is produced in the course of employment the employer owns the copyright unless an agreement to the contrary exists.

In UK law copyright is an automatic right conferred on the creator or their employer. No form of registration is required, and it is not necessary to put the copyright symbol © on the work for it to be protected.

It is important to remember that copyright is a tradable right, the owner is at liberty to sell, or otherwise assign their copyright, either as a whole or in part, to another party. 


What copyright covers

Anything written, printed, spoken or sung and stored in any recording medium.The recording element is important as no copyright exists in an idea, only in expressions of that idea. For example, if someone thinks of a poem, it will have no protection under copyright until it is written down or recorded.

  • Literary works: books, journals, computer programs, data, hand written documents, magazines, pamphlets, poetry, lyrics etc.

  • Dramatic works: plays, screenplays, dance, mime etc.

  • Typographical layout: the physical layout and typefaces used

  • Compilations: the compilation has a copyright as do the individual items within the compilation

  • Musical works: performances, sheet music and lyrics etc.

  • Artistic works: drawings, paintings, graphic works, photographs, maps, logos, sculptures, collages, architecture, items of artistic craftsmanship etc.

  • Databases

  • Recordings and broadcasts of work, including sound and film


How long copyright lasts

  • Literary works: 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator dies

  • Dramatic works: 70 years from the end of the year in which the creator dies

  • Typographical layout: 25 years from the end of the year of publication

  • Ordnance Survey mapping: 50 years from the end of the year in which the map was published

  • Film and TV: films commonly have multiple copyrights and as a result the copyright in a film lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the last survivor of the following dies:

    •     Principal director

    •     Author(s) of the screenplay and dialogue

    •     Composer of any music specially created for the film

  • Sound recordings: potentially have multiple copyrights:

    • The music - 70 years from end of the year in which the composer dies

    •  The lyrics - 70 years from end of the year in which the writer dies

    • The performer(s) – 50 years from the end of the year the recording was first made public

    • The recording - 50 years from the end of the year the recording was first made public

  • Crown and Parliamentary copyright: most works produced by the State and its offices are covered by the terms of the Open Government Licence


Moral rights

As the original creator of your work, your moral rights cannot be sold, traded or transferred. They include the rights to:

  • Be identified as author or director of a work when the work is commercially published or otherwise issued to the public (paternity right)
  • Object to derogatory treatment of a work (integrity right)
  • Object to false attribution of authorship or directorship
  • Privacy of certain photographs and films (privacy right)

Performers also have the right to be identified as the performer, and to object to derogatory treatment of their performance.