What is copyright?

Creative intellectual effort is the main activity of Loughborough University: the essays and dissertations written by students, the teaching-materials made by lecturers and the cutting-edge research done by academics all require labour, skill and judgement in their production. Copyright is what protects this work – and indeed all academic and creative work – from being reused without the say-so of its creators; copyright is what ensures reward and remuneration for creative work.

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Copyright Loughborough University; design by Graham Sedgwick from a concept by Mark Summers, 2011

Copyright, however, can be confusing to understand.  This website has been set up to help you understand copyright and the issues that might affect you at Loughborough University. If you cannot find the information you need, then please e-mail the University Copyright Advisor: copyright@lboro.ac.uk.

Copyright is one kind of Intellectual Property (IP): patents, designs and trademarks are others.  If you need information about these other kinds of IP, please get in touch with the Enterprise Office.

How does copyright work?

Copyright is a kind of property, and it is protected and regulated by law – the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) 1988 Like any property, copyright subsists in an object (in this case, in a work of some kind) and it can be bought and sold.  To start with, the owner of the copyright is the person who has created the work (i.e. the author, artist, musician etc.).  Copyright gives the owner the exclusive right to do the following things:

  • to copy the work;
  • to issue copies to the public (this includes selling copies);
  • to lend copies to the public;
  • to perform or to play the work to the public;
  • to communicate the work to the public by electronic means (this normally means to put it on the internet);
  • to adapt the work.

These are known as ‘Restricted Acts’.  If you want to do these acts you must normally get permission from the copyright-owner.  And (of course) the owner can charge a fee for giving you permission.  This is how copyright rewards creative effort.

What does copyright cover?  And how long for?

Copyright covers works.  According to the law, a work must be an expression that is fixed and recorded in some way (e.g. in writing, as a picture, as a sound or film recording) – an unrecorded live performance is not covered.  Copyright only covers the expression of an idea but not the idea itself. If you want to protect an idea you will need to get a patent.

To qualify for copyright protection the work must be original and the creator must have exerted a certain amount of labour, skill and judgement – a casual doodle or scribble is not covered.  Finally the creator must be British, or be from a country where British works are protected by copyright law.

Copyright in a work does not last forever.  After a certain period of time copyright protection expires and the work will be in the ‘public domain’ and can be freely copied.

Work Examples Expiry of copyright
Literary poem, novel, journal article, doctoral thesis 70 years after the death of the author
Dramatic dance, mime, play, stage musical 70 years after the death of the playwright
Artistic painting, drawing, photograph – also figures, maps, diagrams, graphs 70 years after the death of the artist
Musical musical score (not lyrics or performance or recording) 70 years after the death of the composer
Films any sort of recorded moving picture 70 years after the death of the last director, producer, screen-writer or score-composer
Sound recordings recording of any sound (music, birdsong, white noise, anything) 70 years after it was first released
Broadcasts any TV or radio programme 50 years after it was first broadcast
Typography layout, font and format of a text 25 years after publication
Databases any online or offline database, websites like lastminute.com or Web of Science, databases on University servers 15 years after the last substantial investment

Must I always get permission to reuse copyright-protected works?

Not always.  There are situations in which you can reuse a work without having to get permission direct from the owner:

  • if the copyright in the work has expired (i.e. the work is in the Public Domain);
  • if the University subscribes to a licence that permits copying;
  • if the terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) accompanying the work permit copying;
  • if the CDPA 1988 makes an exception that covers what you want to do with the work.

What exceptions does the law make?

The CDPA 1988 makes all sorts of exceptions to the rights of the copyright owner: that is, under certain circumstances the law allows you to do a Restricted Act with a work without having to get permission.

One of these exceptions is known as ‘Fair Dealing’.  This allows you to (e.g.) copy a work, provided that you ‘deal fairly’ with it (i.e. provided that you do not copy an ‘unfair’ amount – but the law does not say how much this is).  Copying as ‘Fair Dealing’ must be for one of the following purposes:

  • individual non-commercial research or private study;
  • criticism or review;
  • reporting of news.

‘Fair Dealing’ is just one of dozens of exceptions set out in the CDPA 1988.

What licences does the University subscribe to?

Loughborough University subscribes to several licences – these allow members of the University to copy various works in exchange for licence fees.  Probably the most important is the CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) HE Licence, but there are others.  You can find out more about about licences here.

What about moral rights?

In addition to the property rights above, a copyright owner may also have ‘moral rights’ in his/her work.  The owner has the right:

  • to insist that the work is correctly attributed to him/her;
  • to object to any derogatory treatment of the work;
  • to object to having a work attributed to him/her that is not his/hers.

For more information please contact the University Copyright Advisors at copyright@lboro.ac.uk or ring 01509 222399 (Monday-Wednesday) or 01509 222351 (Wednesday-Friday)

Last updated by C Greasley 5th September 2019

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