Digital intellectual property and your business

How can you protect your digital intellectual property

Guide

The law automatically gives copyright protection to the creator or first owner of a piece of work. However, sometimes it can be difficult to prove this. If you produce something original, you can show that you are the copyright owner by using the copyright symbol ©, or by including a declaration to that effect.

Sometimes it is appropriate to make a comprehensive statement such as 'All rights are reserved. No part of this work may be reprinted, reproduced or used without the permission in writing of the publisher.' If you own a website, you can add to it an internet copyright notice which sets out the copyright position of your website content. You can find a sample internet copyright notice and guidelines in our guide sample IT policies, disclaimers and notices.

Some digital assets can themselves be digitally protected by encoding, encryption or watermarking. This is designed to prevent unauthorised use of assets such as photographs, films, music or software that is licensed to a third party.

Some of these systems are designed for 'copy once, use many' - so that an asset may, for example, be downloaded once, but subsequently stored and used freely. This is usually the case with software or entertainment products. In other cases assets can be downloaded on a time-limited basis - for example, for trial use of a digital product.

If a digital asset is used by someone without your permission they are usually in breach of your copyright. In the same way that general copyright infringements may result in criminal liability in certain circumstances the copying of digital products may be a criminal offence. Criminal offences may also occur where a person is making or selling technology designed to break encryption which has been placed on digital products. If you feel your digital asset is being infringed you have the legal right to stop them and to receive damages in compensation. See our guide on protecting intellectual property.