Copyright, Designs & Patents Act

Copyright & related rights

Copyright law was reformed in 1987 and The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act set out to protect artist and creators against unauthorised use of their original works.

The Act states that any prints of work which have been created through photography will be protected as photographs as opposed prints which are created using non-photographical methods, such as woodcuts or engravings, which are protected as prints. The difference in this is important as the copyright on a photograph is much shorter than that of a print.

Copyright protect will last the artist or creators lifetime plus 70 years after they die.

The Copyright & Related Rights Regulations 2003

Under copyright law, only the owner of the copyright has the legal right to make copies or reproductions of their work for the public. If someone who is not the copyright owner wishes to do either of these things, they must seek permission from the copyright owner and gain a license. There are a small number of things which can be done to a copyrighted piece without gaining permission first. These are known as ‘permitted acts’ and are recognised by UK law. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is the piece of legislation which governs copyright law in the UK. Occasionally legislation will need to be updated in order to offer further protection to the owners of copyrights, to extend the number of permitted acts which are legal and to make sure that the law in the UK fits in with the law in Europe. Therefore in 2003 the Copyright, Designs and Patents Bill was reassessed.

Changes where written into the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 and included the following:

  • The right to broadcast copyrighted work electronically – From 2003 copyright owners had the exclusive right to transmit their works electronically. Anyone transmitting copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner would break copyright law. The advantages of this new right are that it enables copyright owners to show their work to a much wider audience while remaining in control of how and where it is shown. An example of how this new right would work is if a website hosts a copyrighted film without the copyright owner’s permission, they will be liable to be sued by the copyright owner.
  • Protection for internet service providers – This new permitted act means that internet service providers will not be punished if the transmission of copyrighted work takes place on their service as long as they are not receiving any economic gain from it being transmitted. The transmission would be a breach but only the party who initially put the copyrighted work up would be held as responsible.
  • Research and private study for non-commercial reasons – This permitted act, also known as ‘fair dealing’ was amended in 2003. Research using a copyrighted work is only legal if it is for non-commercial reasons and if it is accompanied by an acknowledgement. The result of this is that any commercial enterprise would have to gain prior permission if they wish to use any copyrighted work in their research. Charities and not-for-profit art organisations will have to ensure that if they reproduce any copyrighted work for research reasons, that it is accompanied by an acknowledgment. They may also only use copyrighted work for research purposes which would not bring financial gain to their organisation. When using a copyrighted work for private study, as long as it is for non commercial purposes, you do not have to give an acknowledgement to the original copyright owner. As with using copyrighted work for research purposes, if you are using the work in private study for commercial reasons, you will have to seek permission of the copyright owner beforehand.
  • Criticism, review, and news reporting of works which have already been made available to the public – Under the fair dealing clause of copyright law, it has been legal for reviews, criticisms and news reports to be made about a copyrighted work providing that acknowledgment is given to the copyright owner. From October 31st 2003 however, the acts listed before are only legal if the copyright owner has already shown the work to the public. If a work has not yet been viewed by the public, it will be against the law to show it for any of these reasons without getting the permission of the copyright owner beforehand. Being viewed by the public constitutes the work being displayed or shown in any public way, from performance to exhibiting it on the internet.
  • Instruction for non-commercial purposes – The previous legislation stated that it was legal to reproduce a copyrighted work for the purpose of instruction as long as it was made by the person giving the instruction or the person receiving the instruction. From October 31st 2003 however this will only be permitted if acknowledgement is given to the owner of the copyright. As well as this, reproduction for instruction will only be permitted for non-commercial purposes. If the instruction is for commercial purposes, then the person giving the instruction will have to get permission from the copyright owner before they start.
  • Photographs of broadcasts in domestic settings – It has been a permitted act to take a photo of part of a broadcast as long as it was taken for private use. The revision of the Bill means that you can now only take an image of a broadcast if you are in a domestic setting. You are also not allowed to use the images for any commercial reasons.
  • New protections – The updated Bill includes new protection for computer programs which have had technical devices applied to them in order to stop people from being able to copy or transmit them. Tampering with these devices would be breaking copyright law.
  • New rights for non-exclusive copyright licence holders – Before this Bill came through, copyright holders would be put under a lot of pressure by people wishing to use their copyright to either transfer the copyright to them or grant them an exclusive license to use the copyright. This was because only people with a copyright or with an exclusive license were able to take legal action should anyone infringe on their new work. This law means that owners of a non-exclusive copyright license are able to take legal action if someone infringes their design, as long as the infringement was directly of their new design as opposed to the original copyrighted work. The result of this is that copyright holders have greater control of their copyright and can produce income from it without having to transfer it or give an exclusive license. If the owner of the non-exclusive license did wish to take legal action against whoever infringed their copyright, they would have to notify the original copyright holder to see if they wished to get involved in the court proceedings.
  • Transitional provisions – Transitional provisions were made to deal with works made before the new Bill came in on October 31st 2003. These new laws can only be applied to works which were completed on or after October 31st 2003. Any works made before this time would be governed by the previous laws. Also if a legal agreement was made before the 22nd December 2002 any breach of the new copyright laws would not be an infringement even if they were produced after the 31st October 2003. Finally any permitted acts which were started before the new legislation came in, but where not finished by this time, would also be governed by the previous laws.

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