What is copyright?
Copyright is a legally enforceable property right that makes it possible for the holder of that right to profit from a work such as a book, for example. It does this by preventing others from exploiting the work without the rightsholder’s say so for a period of time.
Copyright protects the expression of ideas but not the idea itself. For a work to gain copyright protection it has to be original and should be expressed in a fixed form - for example, in writing (whether in print or electronic). Research data, teaching materials, lecture notes may all be works which attract copyright protection. Copyright becomes effective at the time of the creation of the work. It arises automatically - in the UK no registration of the copyright in a work is required in order to protect it.
Intellectual property law
Intellectual property law in general lets people own the work they create. Intellectual property rights (IPR) are rights granted to creators and owners of works that are the result of human intellectual creativity. These works can be in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic domains. For example, these rights may apply to inventions, manuscripts, software and business names.
The principal intellectual property rights are: copyright, patents, trade marks, design rights, database rights, protection from passing off, and the protection of confidential information.
Intellectual property law grants the creator of a work certain controls over the exploitation of that work thereby encouraging invention and creativity. Some rights require registration, for example, patent right, whilst other rights arise automatically upon a work’s creation, as in copyright.
This guide will focus on copyright law which is an important issue for FE and HE. A clear understanding of the application of the law of copyright can assist those working in colleges and universities to maximise the use of other people’s materials when engaged in building resources for digital learning, for example. It is also of use to those wishing to protect their work.