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Copyright in the United Kingdom (continued)

How original does my work have to be in order to gain protection?

A literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work attracts copyright protection only if it is ‘original’. It seems clear from case law that originality means little more than the work itself must not be copied more or less directly from an earlier work. Existing and ‘in copyright works’ are often used to draw inspiration or generate ideas for creating new works As was said by Lord Bingham of Cornhill in Designs Guild Ltd v. Russell Williams (Textiles) Ltd (2001) FSR 113, a work can be original even though it draws inspiration from elsewhere as ‘there is no new thing under the sun’.

Please note a work may be original and attract copyright protection even if it is not novel or is using an out-of-copyright work which is in the public domain and has been rearranged in a different form.

However, a work which is produced with little skill, effort or judgement is not a copyright work. In fact it may not be considered a ‘work’ at all. Examples of classes of literary compositions which have been refused copyright by the courts are: single invented words; names, short phrases which are commonplace, unimaginative or derivative; e.g. ‘Where there’s a will’; ‘A youthful appearance is a social necessity’, ‘The Man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo’.

What does a copyright owner own?

The owner of the copyright owns the exclusive right (sometimes referred to as ‘negative right’) to prevent third parties from doing a number of ‘acts’ with the copyright work. For this reason, these acts are known as ‘restricted acts’. s.16(1) of the Act provides a list of ‘acts restricted by copyright’, each of which constitutes a primary infringement of the copyright in the work, that is, through doing or authorising an act restricted to the owner of the copyright (‘ restricted act ’) without permission from copyright owner. The restricted acts can be found by clicking on Restricted Acts.

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