Protecting digital intellectual property

How to protect your digital intellectual property


Most digital assets are protected by the law on copyright, which covers anything that is written down or recorded.

Copyright protection for digital assets

Copyright is an automatic right - there is no need to register ownership. 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. In some cases, it may be 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.'

See more on copyright for your business.

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.

Other types of protection for digital assets

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

Some of these protections are designed for 'copy once, use many' approach - 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.

Breach of rights

If a digital asset is used by someone without permission, this could constitute a breach of copyright.

In, certain circumstances the copying of digital products may be a criminal offence. Criminal offences may 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.