Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 - copyright law in the UK

Copyright protects books, poems, plays, music, films and works of art amongst other works. So the artistic works of Tracey Emin, the latest sound recording by Jessie J or a new musical work written and composed by Calvin Harris are protected by copyright law so long as those works are original (not copied) and they have been recorded in writing or in some other way.

The owner of the copyright in a work is allowed certain rights, for example, the right to copy, hire or perform the work in public. If you want to do any of the restricted acts, you will either need permission from the owner of the copyright or check if what you are doing may be one of the exceptions to copyright infringement otherwise you could be sued for copyright infringement.

The following were the few permitted acts allowed by the law:

  • Copyright in a literary work (excluding computer software or a database), dramatic, musical or artistic work is not infringed by the making of temporary copies which are transient or incidental and which have no independent economic significance
  • Fair dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes or private study does not infringe the copyright of the work if sufficient acknowledgement is given to the author of the work
  • Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of criticism, review or news reporting is also allowed provided the author is given sufficient acknowledgement and the work had previously been made available to the public
  • Incidental inclusion of a protected work in an artistic work, sound recording, film or broadcast will not infringe the copyright in the work

Changes to UK Copyright Law

On the 1st October 2014 UK copyright law was changed to give effect to the European Copyright Directive. These changes have been welcomed by creators who believe that they will lead to an explosion of creativity because more works will be available for use.

  • Caricature, parody or pastiche of a work protected by copyright is now allowed without obtaining consent from the owner of the copyright so long as the use is fair and proportionate
  • Quotation from a work for reasons other than criticism, review or news reporting is also allowed so long as the quotation is fair and reasonable
  • Making copies of a work for private use will not infringe the copyright in that work if the work was purchased for private use
  • Researchers will now be allowed to copy materials for the technical process known as data mining so long as they had access to the data
  • Copying of a sound recording, film or broadcast for the purposes of research for non-commercial purposes or private study does not infringe the copyright in the work
  • The law has also been broadened to allow galleries, libraries, archives and museums to make copies of all their works for the purpose of preservation
  • Restrictions on the use of copyright works in education and teaching have been removed so it is now permissible for education providers to use copyright works with modern teaching practices such as Distance Learning
  • Accessible format for disabled people – individuals and charities can now make copies or adapt a work protected by copyright, if the same is not available commercially

These changes to copyright law affect how copyright works can be used going forward and they will affect a wide range of individuals and businesses.