Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells' LimeGreen IP

The site will give you an overview of Intellectual Property law and related procedures, and how these may differ from country to country.

Copyrights - Copyright protection - United Kingdom


In this section we give an overview of UK copyright law including an outline of the works which are protectable and the exclusive rights given to a copyright owner.  Under UK law authors of certain works will own copyright in those works and may also have 'moral rights' in those works, for example, the right to object to derogatory treatment of the work.

Frequently Asked Questions

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-What are the works that can be protected?

Under Article 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ("CDPA"), the following works are protected by UK copyright:

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works;
  • Sound recordings, films, broadcasts; and
  • The typographical arrangement of published editions.

'Literary' works include any works written, spoken or sung (apart from musical or dramatic works) and include computer programs and databases.

Copyright does not subsist until it is recorded (in writing or otherwise).

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works are only protected to the extent they are 'original'. This means (for all works apart from databases) that the work must not have been slavishly copied from another work and a sufficient amount of 'skill and labour' must have been expended by the author. Originality is not defined in the UK act but its meaning has been developed by case-law. The UK meaning of originality differs from the EU concept of originality: 'the author's own intellectual creation'. The EU test has traditionally been viewed as having a higher threshold. However, the CJEU, in the case of Infopaq International A/S v Danske Dagblades Forening, implied that a harmonised concept of originality applies to all works (and not just databases). Consequently, the current concept of 'originality' in the UK has been left somewhat unclear.

-Will the work be protected in other countries?

Works only qualify for UK copyright protection if the author qualifies or the country in which the work was first published is a qualifying country or, in the case of broadcasts, the place of transmission qualifies. This means a work is protected by UK copyright law only if it was made by a British author or a person who is a national of a country to which the CDPA 'applies' or it was first published in the UK or a country to which the CDPA 'applies' or, in the case of broadcasts, it was made in or sent from the UK or a country to which the CDPA 'applies'. The Copyright and Performances (Application to Other Countries) Order SI 2008/677 sets out the countries to which the CDPA 'applies', for particular works, in accordance with the various international treaties which Britain is a signatory to. These are:

  • Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (Paris Act, 24 July 1971)
  • Universal Copyright Convention (as revised at Paris on 24 July 1971)
  • Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations (1961)
  • World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights - TRIPS (1994)
  • World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty (1996)
  • WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (1996).

-What are the requirements for copyright protection?


Where copyright subsists in a work which consists of or includes a design in which an unregistered design right subsists, it is not an infringement of the unregistered design right to do anything which is an infringement of the copyright. So, a copyright owner cannot claim damages for infringement of copyright and unregistered design right in a work.


There is no requirement to register copyright works under UK law in order to gain protection. The work is protected on creation.


The term of protection under the CDPA depends on the work and the rights concerned. The general rule for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works is that the work is protected for 70 years from the death of the author or from the first publication of the protected work in the case of anonymous works.

The CDPA also provides for specific rules on the term of protection for entrepreneurial copyright works, such as sound recordings and broadcasts, which are protected, as a general principle, for 50 years from creation and copyright-related rights, such as moral rights and the right of performers.

-What are the author's rights under the national law?

The CDPA provides authors with copyright and moral rights in their works.

Under the CDPA the owner of the copyright in a work has the exclusive right to copy the work, issue copies to the public, rent or lend the work, perform, show or play the work in public, communicate the work to the public and make an adaptation.

The author of a copyright work has the following moral rights:

  • the right to be identified as the author or director;
  • the right to object to derogatory treatment of a work; and
  • the right to object to false attribution.

On the death of the author, the abovementioned rights shall belong, until the expiry of the copyright, to the person designated by the author in his last will and testament.

The copyright owner (and an exclusive licensee) has the right to take legal action against persons who infringe its copyright. The CDPA provides, inter alia, the following remedies:

  • an injunction
  • full damages or an account of profits
  • an order for delivery up of the infringing copies or any articles designed for making infringing copies
  • the right to seize and detain infringing copies which are available for sale or hire

-How do you assign copyrights / author rights?

The first owner of UK copyright is the author (the person who created the work) except where a work is made by an employee in the course of his employment, in which case his employer will be the first owner. Specific rules apply to sound recordings, films and broadcasts.

Copyright can be transferred by assignment, by testamentary disposition or by operation of law. An assignment is not effective unless it is in writing signed by or on behalf of the assignor. The transmission can be partial, so as to apply to some but not all of the things the copyright owner has the exclusive right to do or to part but not the whole of the period of copyright protection.

Moral rights are not assignable but can be waived.