Copyright & Permissions

Who made it and who took part in it?

When you use the copyright work of another person in most cases you will have to ask for their permission. Permission can be in the form of either an agreement or a licence. There are in some cases exceptions to this.

You can think of a magazine or TV programme or any finished work like an onion, made up of several layers of copyright coming together to make the final product. In the example of an album the performer, the songwriter, the record label and the artist who created the front cover may all have rights in the final product.

It's worth bearing in mind that even though there may be several layers, the same person can own the copyright in each one of them. If someone has asked for permission to use your work, find out more in My Copyright.

The starting point in seeking permission is to understand whether the work is created and owned by one person or if many people have come together to create it. While in some cases there will only be one layer of copyright - for example an original drawing or draft of a book - in many cases there are several layers to consider.

Copyright & Permissions

Works protected by copyright

Examples of the different works protected by copyright are:

  • Literary works such as books, blogs, articles, poems
  • Underlying Musical score, composition, lyrics
  • Commercial music
  • Photographs
  • Artworks
  • Film footage

Performers, like actors and dancers are protected by performers rights. For a fuller list click on Related Links or visit the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)

What questions do I need to ask? 

Looking at the example of a TV programme, you can ask yourself the following questions:

Who made it?

Which company owns/has made the programme? Do they own all rights within the programmes or do other people who have contributed to it still have rights in the programme?

Who took part in it?

It’s helpful to break these down into different types, as they are treated differently in a copyright context:

  • Performers – Who features in the programme? People like presenters, actors, dancers, interviewees etc.
  • Musicians – Has the music been commercially released on CD or for download? Is the music from a live performance or event? Is it classical? For more information on copyright in music visit PRS for Music.
  • Writers – Who is the writer of the script or the literary content, including quotes and text extracts? Do the publishers of that work have any rights?
  • Photographers – Who owns the photographs featured on screen?
  • Clips from other programmes/films – Who owns or licenses these rights?

See also

Copyright Aware