Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft
Why Copyright Matters
Industries relying on copyright protection are now more important to the UK economy than drinks and tobacco, energy, electrical engineering and cars industries, says Jill Durdin of the Copyright Directorate at The Patent Office.
Copyright plays a vital role in the British economy. Industries that are substantially dependent on copyright employ up to 1.3 million people in the UK, and are responsible for up to 6% of GDP. Some industries, such as publishing, software, recorded music, film, video and broadcasting, could not exist without copyright protection. Others, such as advertising and fashion rely heavily on it.
The electronic information services and products industry is vitally dependent on copyright and is worth over £2 billion a year to the UK economy. This is significant when UK electronic publishing firms have 80% of the EU market for on-line services and products.
The music industry alone achieves domestic sales of over £1 billion a year, employs 50,000 people and is a substantial earner of foreign exchange, earning a net £570 million each year, similar to the recent overseas earnings of the UK steel industry.
Though copyright is important to the nationís economy, the public do not always understand the part that they have to play. Every time a musical or artistic work is illegally copied or a musical or dramatic work performed without permission, the copyright owner loses the royalties. This leads to creative talent being stifled as the artist may fail to receive the potential amount of payment that they are entitled to and record companies may not recoup their investment.
Industry is being challenged to keep up with technology to protect its copyright. The music industry have been trying to respond to the threat posed by Internet companies illegally uploading music onto the web to be downloaded by web users. It is starting to use encryption and watermarking to prevent the illegal copying.
As a form of Intellectual Property, copyright stands out from others because it is automatic and you do not register it: You do not have to complete any forms or pay any fees. When you write a piece of literature or produce one of the many other forms of work covered by copyright, such as music, web sites, films or computer programs you immediately own the copyright. However copyright can be very valuable and you still need to think carefully about taking steps to protect your intellectual property. It is important that you understand what your rights are and how the copyright system works.
If you are the author of the material you are normally the first owner of the copyright, although if you produced the work as an employee the copyright may belong to your company or organisation, but like other forms of property, copyright can be transferred. For sound recordings, the copyright belongs to the record producer; with broadcasts, to the broadcaster; and for printed editions, to the publisher. The creator of the copyright work will often have the right to be identified on his work, and to object to mutilations and distortions.
To prove that you produced the work at a particular time, it may be sensible to deposit a copy with a bank or solicitor. Alternatively you can post a copy to yourself by special delivery, so that it has a clear date stamp, and keep the envelope unopened which might help to prove that the work existed at that time. Although the copyright symbol ©, is optional in the UK, you may find using it is helpful, and it is a good idea to apply it to each page on web sites, together with the name of the copyright owner and the year.
As the owner of the copyright your rights cover the copying, adapting, issuing, renting, lending, uploading to the Internet, performing or broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the material. With the UK the signatory to several international copyright conventions, material originating in the UK is normally automatically protected overseas - and work originating overseas is similarly protected in the UK.
If on the other hand you wish to use work protected by someone elseís copyright, you must obtain their permission and agree any payments with them. However very limited use of copyright material for research and private study, criticism or review, reporting current events and teaching in schools may be possible without infringing copyright.
If you are unlucky enough to end up in a dispute it is sensible to try and resolve the issue with the other party first. Failing this, as a copyright owner who feels your work is being infringed you can go to court and seek an injunction, damages and/or an order to deliver up the infringing goods. If the goods involved are coming from outside the European Economic Area HM Customs & Excise can be asked to stop them. Deliberate infringement of copyright on a commercial scale may be a criminal offence.
Bear in mind that the period covered by copyright protection varies depending on what kind of work it is. For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author, but it is generally only 50 years from release or making for sound recordings and broadcasts and 25 from publication for published editions.
For more information on copyright in this country and internationally, visit The Patent Office website at www.patent.gov.uk or contact the Copyright Directorate on 020 7596 6566.