BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page was last updated in March 2008We've left it here for reference.More information

13 July 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
your place and mine
Your Place & Mine Radio Ulster Website

BBC Homepage
BBC Northern Ireland
greater Belfast
contact ypam
about ypam

print versionprint version

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!



About Copyright

Pencil & Paper


The information provided on this site is intended as a guide only. It does not constitute legal advice. The BBC does not accept any responsibility, and expressly disclaims all liability, for any errors, omissions or misstatements, or for any loss caused to any person acting, or refraining from action, as a result of, or in reliance upon the information contained in this website.

When you contribute to 'YP&M' you must make sure that you actually have the right to use whatever material you contribute. In other words, you must own the intellectual property rights to the material or there must be no legal restrictions on its use. Intellectual property rights are various legally enforceable rights over creative output, including copyright works, trade marks, brands, patents, and confidential information. It may breach someone's intellectual property rights to take material which is owned by them and use it yourself, and it breaks our Terms and Conditions, so it's vital that nobody does it.

Nobody would disagree that using other people's work without their permission and passing it off as your own is out of order. The problem is that in limited circumstances the law allows you to include other people's material in your own work. So here we present a basic guide to intellectual property law as it relates to the use of material on 'YP&M'. This guide is very general, so if you're in doubt as to whether your work breaches anyone else's rights, either seek specific advice or don't incorporate their intellectual property into your own work.

Before you consider putting anything onto 'YP&M' that you haven't created yourself, you should assume that you don't have the right to do it. This is by far the easiest solution.

This especially applies to the Internet. Many websites don't give a second thought to copyright, and happily decorate their pages with pictures that they don't own, text that they've simply copied from other sites, and all sorts of material that breaks one or other of the intellectual property laws. Because 'YP&M's whole philosophy is based on the ownership and respect of intellectual property and content, we are absolutely rigid about sticking to intellectual property laws - we want to encourage creativity, not plagiarism!

Please help us keep a clean sheet. Thanks!

Generally speaking, when you create something, you will have copyright in it unless and until you sell or give away your rights. But what about material that you didn't create? Sometimes you can use material that you haven't created, but only for specific purposes and in limited ways.

Here are some types of content that you may be able to use on 'YP&M'. Please be aware that this is only a very general guide: if in doubt, seek out legal advice. Don't guess: you might be breaching someone else's rights and our Terms and Conditions.

For literary works, copyright protection generally lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died. This means you can go round quoting material written by anyone who has been dead for over 70 years, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer and Queen Victoria, but not Elvis. One notable exception is Peter Pan, which has a special copyright because the proceeds go to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Similar principles apply to artistic works (such as photographs, paintings or drawings). Copyright protection for artistic works also generally lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the artist died, and so you will generally be able to use works from artists that have been dead for over 70 years, but not, for example, paintings by Andy Warhol, Picasso or Dali.

Certain short extracts of copyright works can be used without the consent of the rights owner. However, the extract must be insubstantial - a definition which depends on the work and an assessment of the size and importance of the extract you want to use. For example, the final line from a detective novel might be insubstantial in size compared to the size of the novel, but if it gives away the murderer's identity, it can be described as 'substantial', and you therefore risk breaching the intellectual property rights of the author if you use it in your own work. If in doubt as to whether an extract is 'substantial' or not, don't use it!

In limited circumstances you may be able to use an idea from an existing work for the purpose of making a 'parody' of it, provided that you use your own skill and originality in creating your new work, and don't use a 'substantial' part of the work you're parodying. It's often a fine line as to whether or not a work can avoid infringing another work on the basis that it is a 'parody', and so if in doubt, either seek advice or don't send it in!

There are exceptions in the Copyright Act which allow for what is called 'fair dealing' with a work protected by copyright. The two that may apply to material you wish to contribute to 'YP&M' are:
(1) Using a work for the purposes of criticism or review (as long as you 'sufficiently' acknowledge it); and (2) Using a work (except photographs) for the purposes of reporting current events. Again, though, this is subjective, and there is often a fine line between fair use and infringement. It will depend on a number of factors such as the size of the quotations/extracts used, how they are used in the work and how proportionate they are to the size of the work. For example, you couldn't quote an entire song, stick 'I like this song, it's great' at the end, and get away with claiming that you were writing a review of that song. However if your piece is a genuine piece of criticism of, say, a book, then you can quite legitimately quote from that book if it is a part of the criticism. The dealing must also be 'fair', so the review must be balanced and properly researched.

The titles of books, films or songs won't usually have copyright protection, so you can usually use those as part of your work. However, remember that the actual work comprising the book, the film or the song lyrics will most probably be protected.

Ideas themselves are generally not protected by copyright law until they are written down. However, be careful: if there's a book based on a complex set of ideas, and you then copy the ideas for your own work, then there may be an infringement of copyright in the book as a literary work.

Even if something is not protected by copyright law, there may be other areas of law which protect it against unauthorised use. A couple of examples are Trade Marks (registered logos, marks or brands) and the law relating to Breach of Confidence (if information is given to someone in confidence, then provided that it is not already part of the public domain, any use of it without permission may be a breach of the law protecting confidential information). As a rule of thumb, avoid using any Trade Marks and Confidential Information in your contributions!

If you are in doubt as to who owns the intellectual property rights over particular material, then you should not include it in your contribution to 'YP&M'. It is YOUR responsibility to ensure that the material you submit does not breach the Terms and Conditions. Please make sure you have read them and understand what they mean. Finally, if you spot anything on 'YP&M' that you think breaches any intellectual property rights please use the complaint link or button to alert the moderation team. You'll usually find this link right at the bottom of a page, with the wording "In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here." Sometimes things slip through, but we will always act swiftly to remove unauthorised material.

Help Topics...

How can I find things on the site?

How do I submit articles to the site?

How do I send images to the site?

What about copyright?

Is this site moderated?

What will you do with my email address?

What are the house rules?

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy