Digital intellectual property and your business

Using other people's digital assets

Guide

It is very important that you respect the intellectual property (IP) rights of other businesses or individuals.

Sometimes you may want to use other people's digital assets for your own purposes. For example if you are using spreadsheet software to develop an accounting application, you should approach the owner of the rights to the software to apply for a licence to use it. You would own the copyright of the accounting application, but the original software owner would retain the IP rights in the program - so any other users of your application must buy original copies of the software.

You may want to use other digital assets such as photographs, music or videos in your own publications, including websites. The copyright owner must give their permission for this use, and they have the right to refuse. For some digital assets, there are licensing societies which grant rights to users.

It is important to bear in mind that the image rights of people or inanimate objects such as buildings shown in a photograph or video are usually separate from the copyright. You must therefore ensure that you have the permission of both the image rights owner and the copyright owner.

If you make unauthorised use of someone else's digital assets or make or sell technology designed to break encryption which has been placed on digital products, you may be fined or have to pay damages to the rights owner. Use of someone else's IP can also be a criminal offence and lead to prosecution.