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Copyright

Please note: The following information is intended only to identify copyright issues which may affect you in your work or study. It does not constitute legal advice.

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal protection given to creators of original material against unauthorised exploitation of their work. The relevant UK legislation is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), supplemented by various statutory instruments, EU legislation and international conventions.

Material subject to copyright

Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works; sound recordings, films, broadcasts and cable programmes; electronic works; the typographical layout of published editions (i.e. printed pages, whether text or music).

Literary works include computer software and databases as well as all the more traditional forms of writing. Work must be original, though the interpretation is very wide, for example railway timetables are regarded as literary works under the Act. A database is a compilation in any form, print or non-print, but its selection or arrangement must be the author’s own intellectual creation and it is protected for 15 years from the latest substantial revision.

Dramatic works include dance or mime. An opera will have both dramatic and musical copyright, as well as literary copyright in the libretto.

Artistic works are widely defined by the Act and include paintings, drawings, photographs and engravings; sculptures and collages; maps, charts and plans; works of architecture; and works of artistic craftsmanship.

Electronic works include both material created in electronic form, such as computer software, and material stored by electronic means, such as scanning and material available online.

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Who owns copyright?

Usually copyright is owned by the creator of the work and it arises automatically without the need for formal procedures. Copyright can be assigned or devised, so you cannot assume that the author remains the copyright owner. For example, copyright in work created by an employee is owned by the employer, unless an agreement has been made to the contrary.

How long does copyright last?

As a general rule, literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are protected for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years, whether the author actually owns the copyright or not. Computer-generated works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts are protected for 50 years from creation. The rights of a publisher in the typographical layout of a published edition are protected for 25 years from the year of publication.

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Actions restricted by copyright law

If a work is protected by copyright you may not:

  • copy the work in any material form (including electronic form)
  • publish, rent or lend copies to the public
  • perform, show or play the work in public
  • broadcast the work
  • adapt the work (this includes translation)

 without the permission of the copyright owner.

Statutory exceptions

The CDPA includes certain ‘fair dealing’ exceptions, one of which allows you to make a single copy for non-commercial research or private study. The percentage which can be copied from any one publication is not specified; what might be considered a 'fair' amount will depend on the circumstances.  

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Copyright licences

The CDPA encourages the setting up of licensing schemes which authorise more extensive copying in return for fees which are passed on to the rights holders. Cardiff University subscribes to a number of these copyright licences.

Copyright in the work of Cardiff University staff and students

Under the CDPA the copyright in work produced by staff in the course of their employment belongs to the employer. However, Cardiff University normally reassigns copyright in published works to the author, with the exception of:

  • materials for courses run within the University
  • computer software
  • designs, specifications or other works where it may be necessary to protect rights in commercially exploitable intellectual property.

Copyright in a thesis or dissertation produced at Cardiff University is owned by the author.

Contact Corporate Services for advice on the protection and commercial exploitation of copyright material you have created.