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Copyright

Q - An important part of my turnover comes from material produced by employees in the course of their work. I want to make sure the copyright is secured. How do I do this?

A - First things first. You need to know if copyright is the relevant IP right for the circumstances. Copyright covers a wide range of works, from written material to photographs, music to films and computer programmes to video productions.

Any new work which can broadly be said to be a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work attracts copyright protection. This does not mean, however, that a work has to have artistic merit to attract copyright. For example, a computer programme falls into the "literary work" category, as does this bulletin.

Important exclusions from copyright are design documents or models for industrial products. A more appropriate way to utilise your IP rights here would be to use registered or unregistered design rights.

Once you have established that copyright is relevant to your product or service, you do not in fact need to do anything more. Unlike other IP rights, with copyright there is no system for formal registration.

There are, however, things you can do to help promote your rights. Firstly, you can lodge copyright material with, for instance, your bank or solicitor. Blackadders already does this for a number of clients. This means that there is good evidence of the date the material came into existence, which will help if there is any dispute with another business over ownership or infringement of copyright.

Another way to assert your copyright is to use the "©" logo prominently on all copyright material. For example, since this bulletin is an original literary work, it is appropriate to put at the end "© Blackadders 2009". This puts others on warning that you are aware of your IP rights and are likely to assert them if there is any question of copyright infringement.

Copyright protects the owner from infringement in the form of copying, issuing copies to the public, broadcasting or altering the copyright work. This leaves you free to exploit the copyright work yourself or to sell or license the copyright in the work to others. In most cases, copyright lasts for the author's lifetime plus 70 years.