Copyrights & Wrongs
What is a copyright?
Copyright is the exclusive right to reproduce, adapt, use, distribute and display an original work of authorship, such as a photograph. This right is protected by treaties and the laws of the United Kingdom.
For more information, see:
- How copyright protects your work
- Copyright notice by Intellectual Property Office
- Copyright Hub
- UK legislation
- Intellectual property law
A derivative work is a new work that includes aspects of a preexisting, copyrighted work, such as an artistic reproduction of a photograph. A derivative work doesn’t change or negate the copyright owner’s rights in the preexisting work. While a copyright owner can allow someone else to create a derivative work through a license, it constitutes copyright infringement if the preexisting work is used without permission.
“Fair Dealing” is a defense against copyright infringement that allows for the limited use of copyrighted works for certain defined purposes, such as parody or commentary and criticism. Fair dealing is a complicated and frequently misunderstood concept and we recommend that you speak with a copyright lawyer if you have questions about fair use.
Non-profit organisations and charities
A non-profit organisation or charity has to follow the same copyright laws as everyone else. There’s no exemption for non-profits under the UK Copyright Law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988).
Just because an image is displayed on the internet doesn’t mean that it’s in the “public domain”. The term “public domain” is a narrowly defined exception to the UK Copyright Law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). It deals specifically with works in which copyright has expired or where the copyright owner has made a clear declaration that the work is not subject to copyright or the copyright owner has been dead for a specified period of time under the UK Copyright Law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988).
Copyright Notice and Watermarks
Publication of a copyright notice and/or a watermark with an image is not a requirement under the UK Copyright Law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). An image is protected by copyright from the moment it is created – whether published or not, whether registered or not, and whether or not a copyright notice or watermark accompanies a published image. Anyone searching for images for any media should always assume that the images are copyrighted and may not be used in any context until they have confirmed otherwise. It is the end user’s obligation and responsibility to ensure that they are not infringing on the intellectual property rights of any party prior to publishing any image in any medium.
Registration: Does Copyright need to be registered to be lawful?
No. Copyright in original works of authorship is automatic, and registration – while it does carry significant benefits to the copyright owner – is not required for a work to be protected by copyright. Protection attaches immediately when the work is completed which, in the case of a photograph, happens the moment the shutter is clicked. Copyright registration is not required to initiate a copyright claim.