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What do we mean when we talk about copyright?

Copyright is, in a literal sense, the right to ‘copy’ work.

A key principle of copyright is that it always applies to an original work - that is, a physical expression, arrangement, design or creation, rather than an idea. A clue to this concept lies in the name - it is not possible to ‘copy’ something that does not already exist.

Diagram showing how copyright is applied to an idea where no artefact exists (no copyright), the original artefact (copyright belongs to the rights holder) or multiple copies of the artefact (copyright belongs to the rights holder and applies to all copies)

Equally important, is the principle that copyright it is an inherent set of exclusive rights, intrinscially embedded in the work itself. In plain English, this means that as soon as a work is created, it is protected under copyright law and belongs to somebody (often the author/creator, or designated rights holder).

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This article is from the free online course:

Unlocking Film Rights: Understanding UK Copyright

Creative Skillset