Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988

Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 was introduced to give various rights to a creator of author in relation to how they adapt, use, loan or sell their work to others. Rights under this Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 also state that an author or creative can sell or transfer their rights over material. Some copyrighted material may be assigned limited re-use but only in exceptional circumstances such as for educational purposes.

The Act was put in place to also protect the financial interests of the creator of author through the provision of a clear legal framework to determine when there has been an infringement of copyright law.

Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988

In 2014 several amendments were made to the Act to include the use and distribution of digital content. The Internet significantly increases the ways in which material can be copied, modified or used so safeguards had to be implemented to protect the creators.

Key Principles of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All types of creative works from paintings to books and music are covered by Copyright. Copyright law enables the original creators of the work to carefully control how their material is used by a third party and specify a duration that this will apply.

The following work is currently protected under Copyright laws;

  • Literary Material – Books, reports, articles, letters, computer programs and poetry whether these are printed, verbal or through music
  • Databases – Any collection of information or materials which are accessible and arranged in an orderly fashion like a report or library catalogue
  • Art – regardless of quality, all artistic work is covered including photos, sculptures, maps, buildings and photographs
  • Music – Any composition which is recorded. Lyrics are classed as literary material
  • Dramatic work – Any non spoken information provided in print such as stage directions or sections of the performance recorded in print. Scripts will fall into the literary works section
  • Recording of sound – The recording can be in a range of different formats. Direct copies of other recordings are excluded
  • Film footage – Productions in any format including DVDs and digital files
  • Broadcasts – Sounds and images which are used to transmit information to viewers or listeners

As Copyright is a right over property it can be either sold or transferred.

Individuals who hold copyright over material are able to exclusively;

  • Copy the material in any way including electronic means
  • Rent, lend or issue copies of the material
  • Show, perform or play in a public place
  • Transmit or communicate copies, publish content on the Internet or distribute it through email
  • Edit or adapt the material including translation into different languages

If a third party undertakes any of the above without obtaining permission from the copyright holder, they may be breaching copyright law. Handling copyrighted material by selling, distributing or storing is also a breach of copyright. Where the creator of material cannot be traced, the copyrighted material is referred to as being orphan work. Changes in 2014 to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 introduced a set of guidelines relating to Licensing orphan work. This guidance defined how the work can be reused or copied.

Copyright Duration

As soon as a piece of work is created such as a book, piece of music or a painting, the copyright begins for a fixed period of time. Often in the case of literary, music, artistic and dramatic work runs for 70 years after the death of the creator.

The duration of copyright for other pieces of work can be found through the Intellectual Property Office

Unpublished Work

Before the implementation of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, unpublished work was still protected by copyright for a 50 year period after the creator’s death.

Associated Rights

The creators of original work are also assigned a range of moral rights to protect their reputation.

Rights include;

  • Attribution – To be identified as the author
  • Integrity – To object to any treatment of the work which could be derogatory
  • Not to be attributed to work they didn’t create
  • The privacy of personal or family photographs and films
  • Creators can also enforce the right to anonymity
  • Moral rights cannot be transferred to another individual

Exceptions to Copyright Law

There are exceptions to Copyright law which does allow a third party to copy material in certain situations without breaching any copyright laws. The majority of these exceptions relate to the general public and they are intended to encourage the use of copyright material in a creative or innovative way while still upholding the rights of the copyright holder. Content can also be used for educational purposes, with some material being available to libraries for preservation, sharing with other libraries or distributing off site under certain conditions.

Research for non commercial purposes and private study – Within the remit of fair dealing, any individual can take a single copy for their own study provided that it is suitably acknowledged through a reference

Quotations, reviews or criticism – extracts from any published work can be used to accompany your own work again provided that you acknowledge the creator. The context must be used under fair dealing and you must be able to state why you need to copy the amount of work you need. The use of photographs without the express permission of the copyright holder is strictly prohibited.

Accessibility – If a piece of content cannot be accessed by buying or borrowing it, one copy of the copyrighted work can be created for an individual with a disability that prevents them from enjoying the work the same as someone would without a disability. If for example you have problems reading print, a library can make a digital copy of the work for you to access using a screen reader.

Illustration for teaching – Again using the fair dealing regulations teachers or students are able to create a copy of an extract from any work covered by copyright provided that it is to be used for instruction and in a non commercial way such as the completion or creation of assessed work.

About the author:

This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.