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Copyright protects:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including illustration and photography
  • original non-literary written work, eg software, web content and databases
  • sound and music recordings
  • film and television recordings
  • broadcasts
  • the layout of published editions of written, dramatic and musical works

You don't need to apply or pay for copyright. This means there isn't a register of copyright works in the UK.

You get copyright protection automatically, as long as your idea is:

  • original and not copied from someone else
  • documented, for example in writing or as a drawing, recording or computer file

How copyright protects your work

Find out more about how copyright protects your work, including:

Ownership of copyright works

Copyright belongs to the person who created the work, unless they sign a contract giving it to someone else (for example their customer, client or employer).

You can find more information on how the circumstances under which a work was created may affect the ownership of copyright works, including:

  • works created for an employer
  • commissioned works
  • joint authors
  • co-written works
  • works created by students

Exceptions to copyright

There are some exceptions to copyright that allow limited use of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner.

Enforcing your copyright

Decisions about how to enforce your private copyright, i.e. what to do when someone uses your copyright work without your permission, are for you to take.

Infringement is where someone uses the whole or a substantial part of your work without your permission and none of the exceptions to copyright apply.

Copyright licences

You need a licence from the Copyright Licensing Agency if you represent a business, public sector organisation or an educational establishment and you want to make copies of content protected by copyright. Making copies includes photocopying, faxing, scanning and emailing.


You could be sued if you make copies of copyrighted material without a licence.

Visit GOV.UK for more information on:

Appeal against a copyright licensing fine or code of practice

You can appeal against a government fine or code of practice imposed on your copyright licensing organisation or collecting agency. Find out:

  • what you can appeal against
  • how the copyright tribunal works
  • time limits for appealing
  • how to appeal and what happens next
  • legislation and rules

The copyright notice service

If you're a small or medium sized enterprise (SME) you can use the copyright notice service for guidance on an area of copyright law where there is confusion or misunderstanding.

Visit GOV.UK for the full list of information about copyright.

This information applies to the UK only.

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