Intellectual property: the basics

IP rights: copyright


Copyright is an automatic intellectual property (IP) right that you get when you create an original piece of written or recorded literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work.

Copyright applies to any medium and can cover many types of work. If you create a lot of original work, copyright can generate important income for your business.

Find out more about copyright for your business and read about your economic rights from owning copyright.

How to use copyright?

If you own a copyright, you can decide whether to:

  • allow other businesses or people to use the copyrighted work
  • allow work to be copied, adapted, published, performed or broadcast
  • allow other businesses to use work for a royalty or licence fee
  • sell the copyright

If someone you employ creates copyrighted work for you during their normal course of employment, you will own the copyright unless you agree otherwise. It is possible for two or more people to be joint creators and/or joint owners of the copyright.

See more on contractors and copyright.

How can you copyright your work?

Unlike most other IP rights, you don't have to apply for copyright. There is also no official register of copyright holders in the UK. To help protect your work and identify yourself as the owner of the copyright, you should mark it with:

  • the © symbol
  • the name of the copyright owner
  • the year in which the work was created

Find out more about managing your copyright.

For a quick introduction to copyright, watch the Intellectual Property Office video below.

  • IPO Information Centre
    0300 300 2000