Copyright protects the expression of an idea. Not the idea itself.
Do I Have Copyright?
Copyright arises automatically when an ‘original work’ is created.
Original works include written documents – books, manuscripts, even company manuals, as well as drawings, sculpture, plans, photos, video footage, music, sound recordings, software, and website layouts.
With the exception of the USA, copyright is not formally registered elsewhere in the world, so is ‘free’ to obtain.
As copyright protects the expression of the idea, not the idea itself, it is important to remember that copyright does not prevent another party from independently coming up with the same idea.
Enforcing your copyright involves showing three key steps:
- that you own the copyright (e.g. through dated design records, computer back ups etc.);
- that the infringing party knew of the original work or had access to it e.g. via the web, via a brochure, so as to be able to copy it; and
- that the infringing party made a copy of a ‘substantial‘ portion (or all) of the work.
You will hear people talk of a magical ‘10%’ or some other formula to defend themselves from copyright infringement allegations, as in, “I changed it by 10%”. However, this is incorrect. ‘Substantial‘ is not defined, and when assessing whether copyright has been infringed, instead tends to be a subjective decision. Whether possibly infringing or infringed, we answer the curly copyright questions.