Forest Software

Web, SEO and IT & Business Advice for the Smaller Business

What is Copyright?

As copyright is one of the most popular forms of intellectual property right in the business world it's important that businesses of all sizes know how it applies to them and how it protects them. You may think that you are not in the right area for copyright to apply as it only applies to photographs, music, books, plays etc but you would be wrong.

CopyrightAs stated above, copyright normally is considered to protect artistic works such as music, books, plays and so on, but it also protects the more day-to-day things that are created in the modern business environment. Examples include the obvious things like web sites, plans and technical drawings, brochures, reports and software, but what about powerpoint presentations, advertising, manuals, company logos... the list could go on for ever. Yes, copyright encompasses all these - remember though that copyright covers the way an idea is presented, not the idea itself, so it's the words and photos used in your brochure about the service you provide that is copyright and not the service itself.

There is no official registration system for copyright, it occurs automatically once a work has been created, although some people will send themselves a copy of the document or presentation etc though the post so that the envelope has a postmark on it (remember if you do this not to open the envelope).

As a business you should be aware that, unless the work has been done under a contract of employment it is the author that retains the copyright - hence, if you ask a web designer to build you a web site or you have a graphic designer put an advert together for you, you should ask them to assign copyright to you (and a tip is to make sure that any images that they use are either theirs to use or that they have a licence to use).

Depending on what has been created copyright lasts for different periods of time in the UK.

  • Business Documents - it lasts for the lifetime of the employee who created the document and then for a further 70 years.
  • Books, plays, music, photos - copyright lasts for 70 years after the authors death
  • Films - in this case copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last director/composer/author/scriptwriter involved with the film
  • Broadcast materials - it is for 50 years from the date of the first broadcast

You should be aware that if you use work that breaks someone's copyright there are legal penalties involved with some companies claiming large amounts (in the thousands of pounds - see this thread on Of course there are sites where you can buy the rights to use photos on your websites for a minimal fee such as dreamstime which has quality stock photos available for a low price.

You should also be aware that in some countries such as the USA infringing copyright on your website can be enough to have the website taken down by the hosts or removed from search engines such as Google [via The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)].

Copyright is also covered by an international convention (the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works ) which extends copyright around the world.

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