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Who Owns Copyright?

The general rule is that the author or maker of the work owns copyright.

This may not be the case if:

  • The author / maker has assigned their copyright to another person
  • The author / maker is an employee and created the work in the course of their employment
  • The work is a commissioned photograph, engraving or painting

Where there is more than one author, the copyright is jointly owned by all the joint authors.

Copyright ownership is different from physical ownership: just because you own a CD or a painting does not mean you own the copyright in that work.

Rights of Copyright Owners

Owners of copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works have the exclusive right to:

  • reproduce the work (including by photocopying, copying by hand, filming, recording and scanning)
  • make the work public for the first time
  • communicate the work to the public (e.g. via fax, email, broadcasting, cable or the internet)
  • to perform the work in public (this includes playing a recording or showing a film containing the work) *Does not apply to artistic works
  • to make an adaptation (e.g. a translation or dramatised version of a literary work; an arrangement of a musical work) *Does not apply to artistic works

Owners of copyright in films, sound recordings, broadcasts and published editions have the exclusive right to copy their material. In addition, they have rights relating to:

  • showing films and playing recordings in public
  • transmitting films and sound recordings to the public using any form of technology

If you exercise any of the above exclusive rights in relation to a work or subject matter other than works, you must have the permission of the copyright owner or can rely on an exemption, or you will be infringing copyright.


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