As copyright is quite a complex area of law, it is a good idea to talk to specialist copyright solicitors if you ever have an issue surrounding it.
To give you an idea of whether you might need to use a copyright solicitor, read on for some frequently asked questions and more information.
How long does it last?
How long the copyright lasts on any given work will depend on exactly what the work is. For instance, some rights last for 70 years following the death of the author, while others last for 50. Some rights last from the year the work was created in the first place while others can last for up to 125 years. If you are unsure which category your work falls into, talk to your copyright solicitor.
What will happen if a copyright expires?
When a copyright expires, it passes into the public domain and can be used freely. This is why it is possible to make use of works such as those by Shakespeare and other long-dead composers and authors, but not artists who are still alive or who have only recently died.
What does the law protect?
The law protects a whole range of things and generally applies to pieces of work that have been in some way recorded. For example, this can include sound recordings, films and broadcast material, literary works (including books, pamphlets, articles and so on), artistic works, dramatic works, musical works and, more recently, computer programmes which have also been added to the list.
Where do my rights apply?
The Berne Convention [or to give it its full title "the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works"] is an international convention that dictates copyright to be an automatic international right, so if you create a piece of work in one country it will still be protected in the vast majority of countries worldwide. There are only very few exceptions to this – 164 countries have currently signed up to the Berne Convention. However if you are in doubt as to whether you have protection, if you are in doubt, specialist copyright solicitors will be able to help you.
Can I copyright my ideas?
Generally speaking, you can’t copyright your ideas, only the content that you produce as a result of them. So, while it would be perfectly fine for two people to write two different books based on the same idea, it wouldn’t be okay for one to directly copy a book from another.
What about using the work of others?
There are strict rules governing the use of work by others that are still protected by copyright. These rules are termed ‘fair use’ and tend to apply to things such as incidental inclusion, news reporting and some educational or personal use.
Do the rules also apply to the internet?
Yes. It doesn’t matter what form the recorded work takes or where it is located, it is still covered by the relevant laws.