Copyright laws are different in every country, but the copyright law that started in the UK came from the concept of common law; the Statute of Anne 1709. It became statutory with the passing of the Copyright Act 1911. The current act is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Copyright covers the rights of artists, designers, authors, photographers, musicians, film-makers and performers. When a creator creates a piece of work, it will automatically have a form of copyright to it because it is their work. Depending on what medium you are producing with, the way you choose to handle your work may vary. For example, a painter would sell their painting but keep the rights to reproduce it but an illustrator would sell or license the copyright to their work and keep the original.
Copyright in the UK is automatic and usually lasts the creator’s lifespan and generally continues on for 70 years after their death. Some exceptions include forms of media broadcasts and recordings that are only able to be protected for 50 years after their first year of publication, and presswork arrangements that are only protected for 25 years after their first year of publication. Unregistered design right or unregistered copyright properties in the UK only lasts 15 years after the first prototype or sketch, and only 10 years from when the item is first marketed.
You are your own copyright unless you are an employee for a company or brand. In that case, it is usually the employer who owns the copyright to your work related creations. If you are self employed, it is worth being extra careful when taking on client commissions and contracts in order to avoid accidentally giving the customer more rights than you are prepared to give. It is also worth archiving your work as well as saving drafts, sketches, photographs, plans, source materials or models – anything to prove that you created the original piece of work and help defend yourself against any allegations of copyright from other creators, businesses and even art thieves.
If you want protection for something that involves making new material such as recipes, formulas and novel inventions then you can apply to register for a patent. If your invention is still under development or needs finalising but you still wish to discuss it and display it, then patents can come in handy to help protect your work whilst it’s being worked on. Until this idea or invention has been filed through the first stages of it’s patenting process known as the ‘initial application’ for at least one year, you should not share or exhibit your work openly to any third parties. A granted patent can last up to 20 years.
Branding and product names can initially be protected by the ™ (trademark) symbol. This symbol indicates that you are using this name for business and marketing purposes. If you want full protection, you must register your trademark name at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).