Does your “intellectual property” qualify for copyright protection?

The following Four Stage Test will help you determine whether copyright subsists in your work.

1. Your work must belong to a protected category of works[1].
  • Primary Works: original literary (lyrics), musical (compositions), dramatic (dance capable of being performed) or artistic works (photographs, sculptures)
  • Secondary or Derivative Works (usually carrying primary works): sound recordings, films, broadcasts, printed materials.

Not protected categories of works or types of work for which copyright might be difficult to establish:

  • Ideas, procedures, methods (including business methods), systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, descriptions or explanations.
  • Familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or colouring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.
  • Works consisting entirely of information that is common property and containing no original authorship (for example: standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources)

[info_box] Metallica could not have a monopoly in metal music. Anyone else is free to write a metal song since the concept of metal music is not protected by copyright[/info_box]

2. You idea must have been worked into a material form.
  • No copyright in an “idea” unfixed into any material form.
  • Importance of keeping mere ideas un-privatised and in the public domain.

Not protected:

  • Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, musical performances that have not been written down or recorded, improvisational speeches, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded)

[info_box]A musician may perform a song while playing the guitar without recording in some way. Copyright does not subsist in such work unless they are recorded, in writing or otherwise. [/info_box]

3. The work is original to you.
  • Originality rests on whether or not the work embodies skill, talent, work and effort.
  • A work may embody some elements not original to the author (provided such elements are not themselves entitled to copyright protection) but must embody some significant overall original expression or embellishment.

[info_box]The work does not have to be unique, or even particularly meritorious. Rather, originality is taken to require that the work in question originated from the author and that it was not copied from another work.[/info_box]

4. The author of the work must be a qualifying person.
  • British Nationals residing overseas.
  • Persons residing in the UK, UK overseas territories or the European Economic Community.
  • Company incorporated under the laws of any Part of the UK.
  • Persons residing in any of the ‘Convention Countries’ (of which the UK is part of).

[1] Section 1(1) of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998 – CDPA

by Juan Lopez, Legal Consultant 

[notice_box]For trusted copyright infringement letters and various copyright related contracts templates please visit The Music Law Contracts page[/notice_box]