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Overview of Copyright

What Does Copyright Apply to?

The Copyright Act divides the material protected by copyright into ‘works’ and ‘subject matter other than works’.

The categories of ‘works’ are:

  • Literary – e.g. books, journal articles, reports, poems, computer programs, song lyrics, directories, databases (but not insubstantial titles or slogans) 
  • Dramatic - a composition intended to be represented rather than narrated, e.g. plays, choreography, mime pieces
  • Musical – music that has been reduced to writing or to some other material form. Copyright does not subsist in an improvisation that has not been recorded or written down
  • Artistic – e.g. paintings, engravings, photographs, diagrams, illustrations, cartoons, sculptures, craft work, graphs, buildings, building plans, maps

A work must be original but does not need to have literary or artistic quality.

The categories of ‘subject matter other than works’ are:

  • Cinematograph films – the visual images and sounds in a film, television program, video, DVD,  (as distinct from the underlying film script) 
  • Sound recordings – the particular recording itself (as distinct from the underlying music or lyrics).  Can be in analogue or digital form.
  • Broadcasts – TV and radio broadcasters have copyright in their broadcasts which is separate from copyright in the film, music or other works which they broadcast
  • Published editions – the typographical arrangement and layout (as distinct from the literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work itself)

Copyright applies to both print and electronic material. It is important to note that one physical item can contain a number of separate copyrights, e.g. a music CD will contain several sound recordings, musical works, song lyrics and artwork on the cover.




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