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. See examples in what does copyright cover. If you create a lot of original work, copyright can generate important income for your business. 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 copyright.

How can you copyright your work?

To help protect your work, you should mark it with:

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

To gain a better understanding of copyright, see also copyright for your business and managing your copyright.

Some areas of copyright law have been affected by EU Exit. For current information on these, see: changes to copyright law from 1 January 2021.

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

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