Answered By: Digital Library Services Team
Last Updated: Feb 03, 2017     Views: 50

Copyright is an intellectual property right that provides legal protection and makes it possible for the holder of that right to profit from a work such as a photograph or a book, for example. This is done by preventing others from exploiting (by reproducing some or all of) the work without permission of the rightsholder, for a set period of time.

Copyright protects the expression of ideas but not the idea itself. So, for a work to be protected, it must be original and in a fixed format (eg a piece of writing). Copyright automatically comes into force at the time of creation of the work and doesn't require registration (in the UK).

Copyright legislation gives the right to copyright owners to prevent other people from (amongst other things) copying a substantial part of an original work. Broadly, originality requires that the work is the product of the independent skills, judgment and effort of the author.

Legal definition

Currently, UK copyright law is set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), as amended, as:

…a property right which subsists in accordance with this Part in the following descriptions of work -

  1. Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works,
  2. Sound recordings, films, or broadcasts, and
  3. The typographical arrangement of published editions.

Updates to Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

Since 1988, many amendments have been made to the CDPA. For a full outline of the implications of these exceptions for teaching and learning, check the section called 2014 changes to copyright law and implications for teaching and learning on the Copyright for Staff page of the Manchester Metropolitan University Library Copyright guide.