The internet provides everyone with the opportunity to readily access and use information.  If you are a creative person who places their work in the public domain of the net, you may be concerned that someone could take your work and claim it as their own in order to make money.  But what can you do legally to protect your work from plagiarism?  Read on to find out how the law of copyright could help.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an umbrella term used to describe the legal rights afforded to creatives for their work.  Its purpose is to protect their material from plagiarism by others who might seek to exploit the material without making any payment to the original creator.  Copyright law recognises the effort and time invested by the creator in producing the work for the enjoyment of the public at large.

Many different kinds of works are covered by the law of copyright including:

  • books
  • plays
  • poems
  • academic reference works
  • photographs
  • paintings and drawings
  • newspaper and magazine articles
  • films
  • musical compositions
  • computer programmes
  • websites
  • video games
  • technical drawings and maps
  • sculpture and architecture

Although this list is extensive, it is not exhaustive, as copyright law covers just about anything that has been uniquely created by someone.

How do you get copyright?

You don't need to apply for copyright; it's an automatic right and there is no official register of people who hold copyright on their work.

In order to copyright your work, all you need to do is endorse it with the international copyright symbol - ©.  In addition, be sure to include your full name, together with the year that you created the piece of work.

If your work is non-print and cannot therefore be marked, you may need to use other methods of presenting information that implies copyright.  For example, if you have a website where you place musical pieces that you have created, you could insist that your visitors click an agreement stating that you own the copyright to the track, before they are permitted to purchase and download it.

Protecting your copyright

Once you have marked your work as 'copyright', you should leave a dated copy of it with your lawyer.  This could be important if someone used your work without permission at some point in the future, as it goes some way to proving your ownership of the work at the time.

If you fear that your copyright has been infringed, it's imperative that you seek advice from your lawyer.  They may then use the laws of the country where the breach of your copyright has occurred in order to sue the infringers.

In conclusion

If you are a creative person who makes their work public, you should take the precaution of marking your work with your copyright as described above.  If you have produced work of potentially very high value, it's a good idea to discuss copyright protection with your lawyer prior to publication.