Copyright law protects your expression, not mere ideas or facts but your expression of them.
Copyright Law states it must be original and unlike patents it does not require any special registration process in this country.
Copyright does not protect original ideas, just the original expression of those ideas!
Currently the duration of a copyright is the life of the author plus 70 years.
There are 4 traditional methods of expression which can be copyright protected under current Copyright Law:
The quality of the work does not matter, for example you can assert your copyright over manuals, the lyrics of a song, fictional characters you have created, their expressions, (i.e. Buzz Lightyear) and the plots of stories.
The more the work is delineated, i.e. The more detail in the work, then the more it will be protected.
Copy right doesn’t just cover the written word, you can assert your copyright over Written, Sung or Spoken words (under the 2000 Copyright Act)
You can copyright Books & Dramas (albeit with slightly different rules).
However in order to assert copyright over something it must be above a De Minimus standard (come above a low threshold) for example your random jottings or doodles would be unlikely to get copyright protection from the courts.
Typically, slogans and jingles will fall below the minimum standard required for you to assert copyright (they may need to be Trade Mark protected instead)
Original compositions of music should be covered by copyright. However it is not often clear to the lay person these days if this is so. This can be particularly difficult with modern music like rock, as the song goes ‘all I need are 3 chords…’ therefore there is a need to compare and contrast pieces of music to determine if there is a copyright infringement. It only takes a court to be persuaded that a part of the song is infringing a copyright in order for substantial damages to be awarded.
There are two types of infringement with regard to music – Conscious infringement & Unconscious or subconscious infringement. The size of damages awarded can be determined by the type of infringement.
An example of conscious infringement involved George Harrison’s (of the Beatles fame) song ‘My Sweet Lord’ which was found to be a conscious copyright infringement of The chiffons song ‘she so fine’. As both of these songs were in the charts at the same time, the court inferred that Mr. Harrison has access to the song and therefore it was a conscious infringement. Damages awarded were considerable.
3. Artistic Copyright
Most things that an artist produces are original expressions of their ideas and are therefore copyright protected. For example the courts found that Frisbees were protected as they considered them an engraving.
Once again as in literary copyright there is a De Minimus requirement or a minimum threshold that the artist must reach in order to assert copyright protection.
A good example of this requirement is the strips on the face of a well-known singer in the 1980’s, Adam Ant. These were the subject of a court case and they were not found to reach the minimum threshold and therefore could not be copyright protected. It would also appear from that case that the artistic piece must be permanent, which could cause some artists problems if their work is not permanent.
4. Works Of Artistic Craftsmanship
There is a higher standard then the previous categories if you want to assert copyright protection for works of ‘Artistic Craftsmanship’.
The courts have stated that in order to copyright protect works of artistic craftsmanship that they ‘must have a real artistic quality’
There is no requirement for these works to be fixated.
What can be copyrighted?
Under the 2000 Copyright Act the following artistic works are capable of copyright protection, as long as they are original. Please note that this list is not exhaustive.
Photographs, paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts, plans, engravings, etchings, lithographs, woodcuts, prints or similar works, collages or sculptures (this also includes any cast or model made for the purposes of a sculpture). Works of architecture, being either the buildings or the models for buildings, and other works of artistic craftsmanship.
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