In the UK, your writing, music, images and videos are automatically protected by copyright the moment you create them – as long as you haven’t copied them from somebody else. The idea behind your work isn’t protected, but the creative work itself is.
This means that if someone wants to copy or use your creative work, they usually have to ask your permission, and you can set the conditions for how the work can be used. You can also charge people to use the work.
You don’t have to register text, music, images or videos for copyright. But it’s a good idea to prove that you created the work on a certain date. It's also a good idea to help people to find you so that they can get permission to use your work.
You might want to negotiate each permission personally or you might want to appoint someone to do this on your behalf, in the role of an agent or representative, and to join a collective licensing organisation. Your appointed representative can then charge people for a licence to use your work and pay you royalties (a share of the money every time somebody uses your work).
When you produce a work that’s covered by copyright, you have two different kinds of rights: economic rights and moral rights.
Economic rights give you the right to earn money from your creative work. This means you can give or deny people permission to:
- copy your work (for example by photocopying, scanning, recording, reproducing in a different format)
- rent or lend copies of your work to the public (except that library loans are always permitted, and are compensated under the Public Lending Right Scheme)
- show, play or perform your work in public
- broadcast the work to the public – this includes putting the work on the internet
- making an adaptation of your work (for example by translating it).
You can give or sell your economic rights to another person or organisation.
Moral rights help protect your reputation. They allow you to:
- be identified as the creator of your work (you need to assert this right in writing when you give someone permission to use your work in some way)
- object to your work being used in a derogatory way
- not be attributed as the creator of a work you didn’t create.
You can’t give away or sell your moral rights.