Copyright and its importance to your business

What is copyright

Copyright is an intellectual property right usually associated with artistic creations like novels and feature films.  We all know that things like that cannot be copied without consequence.  But what does it mean to us, as business owners, rather than authors and film producers?  The answer is A LOT, and its value shouldn’t be overlooked or underestimated. Here we explore copyright and its importance to your business.

What is copyright?

Copyright protects so-called artistic works, including things like audio productions, videos, photographs, written copy, etc.  In short, pretty much anything and everything you or your team create and record to express, promote or run your business.  Everything from the copy on your website, logos, printed marketing material, and teaching or informative resources, to podcasts, videos, and animations, not to mention any software code.

Who owns copyright?

Copyright is usually owned by the creator of the artistic work, unless it is created by an employee as part of their duties, in which case copyright would usually be owned by the employer.  It is very important, therefore, if using an external consultant to create something for your business, to ensure that the copyright will be passed to you (or your business) on completion of the contract.  This would include contractors like web developers, marketing consultants, sound recording studios, photographers, videographers, etc.  Always make sure from the outset that the value they create for you will be transferred into your business.

Do you have to register copyright?

Copyright comes into force automatically, as soon as some sort of original ‘artistic’ work is created and recorded in some tangible form (i.e. on paper, in a digital file, etc.).  There is no copyright registration procedure in the UK.  You can mark your copyright works with a © together with the year of creation and the name of the copyright owner.  Although you don’t have to do that, it does serve to put others on notice of your IP rights.

Make sure you own the copyright in your creations

What does copyright do?

Copyright gives you the right to prevent a third party from:

  • copying your work
  • distributing copies of it, whether free of charge or for sale
  • renting or lending copies of your work
  • performing, showing or playing your work in public
  • making an adaptation of your work
  • putting it on the internet

You can read more on this from the UK Intellectual Property Office: How copyright protects your work: Overview – GOV.UK (

How long does copyright last?

This depends on the nature of the so-called artistic work.  For many types of work, UK copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the author dies.

Database Right

Database right is a form of copyright that allows you to stop third parties from copying databases you have created.  Among the most valuable assets within many businesses are the collections of data they have created to allow them to carry on their day to day commercial activity…just think of your mailing lists or customer records!  Other businesses use collections of data as part of their commercial offering, for example, searchable directories or collections of photographs.  For more on protecting your databases, read our earlier blog:  Protect your databases! – Strachan IP.

Don’t underestimate the value of your copyright

In this digital age, many (if not all) businesses have valuable copyright and database rights.  Many don’t even know they are there, let alone appreciate their value.  Don’t underestimate the value of copyright and its importance to your business. Make sure you count the IP in your creations as valuable company assets, and police and protect them as such.

Need help?

If you need help with this, or any other, IP issue, please book a free initial consultation by emailing or visit our website at

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