What is Copyright?
Copyright protects artistic works, such as original books, plays, music, visual art and films. However, because it is so hard to define exactly what qualifies as art, copyright also protects any new work of a non-aesthetic nature, such as design drawings, computer code, client lists and other documents.
Copyright only protects the form of a work, and not the ideas behind it. To infringe the copyright in a book it is necessary to actually use the same wording. If the story is re-written using different words, then the copyright is not infringed. The most common forms of copyright infringement are the unauthorised use of photographs, and of course illegal downloads, where the works are taken in their entirety. However, claims can also relate to counterfeit products in some circumstances, and also to the unauthorised use of visual logos.
It is not necessary to apply for copyright protection in the UK, as instead it simply applies to any new work once it has been recorded in permanent form. It is useful to record the date the work was created in case this must be proved later, which can be achieved by simply dating it, or depositing it with a bank or other organisation which can provide a proof of date.
It is however important to ensure that if you use an outside agency to create a copyright work for you, the ownership is clearly transferred to you by written agreement.