Copyright Infringement

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If you are using material created by somebody else without that person’s authorisation, you may be infringing their copyright. Including a disclaimer with this material is unlikely to have any legal effect and will not protect you from copyright infringement!

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property (IP) protection that covers works such as written material (books, song lyrics, manuals etc), musical recordings and scores, photographs, paintings, films and sound recordings.

Copyright is an automatic right

Copyright is an automatic right that arises whenever a qualifying work is created, the first owner is the creator of the work. Ownership may subsequently transfer automatically to an employer or to a third party under an agreement. Copyright law provides the owner with the exclusive right to use the work, copyright law also provides authors and performers with the right to be acknowledged and some rights in how the work is used. The UK legislation relating to copyright is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

How does copyright protect me as a creator?

Copyright prevents the unauthorised copying, distribution, performance, and adaptation of a protectable work. Carrying out any of the above acts in relation to a copyright-protectable work without the permission of the copyright owner constitutes infringement.

Are there any exceptions to copyright?

However, the law does allow limited third-party use of copyright-protected material under certain circumstances. The exceptions to the law allow restricted use of copyright-protectable material in the following scenarios: research and private study; criticism, review, quotation and news reporting (photographs do not fall under this exception); caricature, parody or pastiche; and illustration for instruction.

How do I know whether I’m allowed to use someone else’s copyright material under an exception?

The test to determine whether the use of copyrighted material falls under one of the exceptions is to assess whether to use is fair, this is known as ‘fair dealing’ under UK law. Examples of factors that are often considered are whether the use of the work may have a financial impact on the copyright owner, if it does then it’s likely to be found to be an unfair use and therefore infringe. Another factor that may be considered is whether the amount of the work used is reasonable. If the copyrighted work is being used for commercial purposes, it is unlikely to be considered as fair dealing. Usually, the copying of an entire work will not be considered fair dealing.

Usually, the copying of an entire work will not be considered fair dealing

Typically, when using works under fair dealing a sufficient acknowledgement of the author will still be required.

Can I use someone else’s content as long as I add a disclaimer, acknowledgment or attribution?

The inclusion of a disclaimer when using third-party copyrighted material is unlikely to have any legal effect and therefore does not prevent you from infringing the third party’s copyright if you are not authorised to use that material or your use of the material does not fall under one of the above exclusions. Similarly, acknowledging the source of the material will not prevent infringement if you use a third party’s copyrighted material without authorisation.

What are the risks if I use someone else’s content without permission?

Ultimately, if you are found to be infringing a third-party’s copyright, you may be issued with an injunction, preventing you from using the material in question or you may have to pay damages to the owner of the copyright. If you’re in any doubt over whether your use of copyrighted material may constitute infringement, please get in touch! Further information on copyright can be found on UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) website and also on the Definition IP website.