Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act exists to protect our creations.

When anyone creates something, they own it. What they create might include:

  • a picture, drawing or photograph
  • a video, television programme or film
  • text, such as a book, article or report
  • a game

Copyright is a legal means of ensuring that content creators can protect what they create. Copyright is applied automatically - it is not necessary to register copyright or to use a © symbol. Work is automatically protected by copyright unless the copyright holder chooses to give that right away.

Copyright gives the copyright holder exclusive rights to publish, copy, distribute and sell their creation. No one else can use the work without permission. Copyright on a piece of work lasts for a long time, although the rules about how long are quite complicated and vary from country to country.

When you buy something, such as a book, film or music CD, the copyright holder grants permission for you to use it as part of the sale. This is called a licence. The licence is generally only for you to use.

When using computers, unless you have permission with regard to a particular copyrighted material, it is illegal to:

  • make copies
  • publish
  • distribute
  • sell copies

This applies to any copyrighted material, such as music, films, games and television programmes. The internet has made it extremely easy to access copyrighted material illegally. If you download a music track, film, game or programme without the copyright holder’s permission, you are breaking the law.

Supermarkets earn their money by selling food and other products. If someone takes their products without paying, the supermarket doesn’t make any money. In the same way, musicians, photographers, film makers and artists earn their money by selling products. If someone takes their products without paying, the person who created the work doesn’t make any money.

Graphic illustrating piracy of software

There are some situations where it is legal to copy, publish, distribute or sell material. These are:

  • when you are the copyright holder
  • when you have the copyright holder’s permission
  • when the copyright holder has chosen to give up their copyright