Guide

Managing your copyright

Your economic rights from owning copyright

Copyright is a proprietary right existing in original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work. As a copyright owner, you have the exclusive right to do certain 'restricted acts' in respect of your work. For example, you can allow or prohibit:

  • copying of your work - including photocopying, reproducing by handwriting, typing or scanning into a computer, and taping live or recorded music
  • issuing copies of the work to the public
  • renting or lending copies to the public - unless the work is lent under the Public Lending Right Scheme, which does not infringe copyright
  • performing, showing or playing the work in public - eg performing plays and music, playing sound recordings and showing films or videos in public, letting a broadcast be seen or heard in public
  • electronic broadcasting of the work to the public - eg putting copyright material on the internet or using it in an on-demand service
  • adapting the work - eg translating a literary or dramatic work, transcribing a musical work or converting a computer program into a different computer language or code

Unless it falls under copyright exceptions, it is an infringement of copyright to do any of the above acts without the permission of the copyright owner. Read more about how to enforce your copyright.

Other rights in creation of copyright works

As well as copyright, there are other important rights associated with the creation of works:

  • Moral rights - unlike copyright, you can't transfer or sell these, but you can waive them. They give the creator the right to be acknowledged as the originator and to object to derogatory treatment of the work.
  • Performers' rights - performers have various rights in their performances and an interest in the recordings or broadcasts. In some cases the performance itself can be copyrighted and the performer has a right to control the way in which a performance is broadcast.
  • Publication right - the first time a work is published, even if the copyright has expired, the publisher has certain rights that are equivalent to copyright but with a shorter term.
  • Database right - this right protects someone who creates or arranges a database, often of copyright work. For example, a definitive database of poetry, paintings or other artistic work.

In addition to these legal rights, copyright owners can use other forms of protection to prevent unauthorised use of their work, including:

See also how to use your copyright and how to license your copyright.