What is Copyright?

In short, copyright is a form of intellectual protection for original works of a creator, whether published or unpublished, giving them exclusive rights for its use and distribution.

Copyright Law

The Copyright Law originated in 1710, as laid down in the "Statute of Anne" in Great Britain (Copyright Act 1709 8 Anne c.19). It was enacted in 1709, but didn't come into force until April 10, 1710. Through this act the author's rights became protected.

At the time of the Statute of Anne, copyright lasted for only fourteen years, but nowadays the duration of copyright protection is fifty to hundred years after the death of the author. The act came into existence because publishers profited from printing copies of the work without remunerating the author. The act was established "for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books". The Statute of Anne allowed authors to earn a living from their work. The act formed the beginning of copyright protection, of Copyright Law.

Copyright applies to...

Copyright applies to creative, artistic, intellectual, or scientific works. Following is a list of works to which copyright applies:

  • musical compositions
  • audio recordings
  • theses
  • plays
  • poems
  • literary works
  • films
  • dances
  • paintings
  • sculptures
  • drawings
  • photographs
  • software
  • web designs
  • radio
  • television
  • broadcasts

Ideas aren't covered by the Copyright Law. These would come under the category of "patents". Likewise, names and titles fall into the category of "trade marks". Also, you can't copyright derivatives of an existing work, because the work has to be original. For instance if you make a new arrangement, or a new orchestration to an existing melody, then the author of the original melody is still the copyright holder.

The Berne Convention

In 1886 the "Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works" was held to further protect artists, musicians, photographers, designers etc. A fundamental new principle was laid down, namely that copyright automatically exists from the day a creative work is available in a tangible form (for instance when it is recorded, or written down). The Berne Convention also states that the creator of a work doesn't need to apply for copyright, or to register it.* It automatically exists once it has been put it into a fixed form.

* Registering for proof of copyright with Copyright House does not make you the copyright owner. Registering your work at Copyright House provides you with a proof by an independent third-party that you registered your creative work at a certain date and time. This date/time stamp is of vital importance. Therefore we emphasize that you always first register your work and then publish it.

The Berne Convention also declared that authors from all the 177 countries who have signed up to the convention have to be treated the same way as domestic ones.

Other copyright conventions were: the Buenos Aires Convention held in 1910 and the Universal Copyright Convention in 1952.


Next: About poor man's copyright - sending your works to yourself

The information on these pages are not a complete guide but should be regarded as a basic overview to enhance your understanding of copyright. This is not legal advice and should not be considered as such. Some information may not be applicable in certain situations.


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