Copyright is vital to be aware of if you are creating and sharing content. I'm no lawyer, but this is a rundown of everything I was taught on my design course in the UK and what I think you should know.

Let's get familiar with a couple of terms before we start. Material protected by copyright is known as a work. Notifying others of copyright ownership is known as asserting.

You must not infringe the copyright of others. At best, you'll get told to take something down. At worst, you could get a lawsuit. You also need to be able to assert copyright of your own work.

So, with that out of the way, let's get into it.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an aspect of Intellectual Property Rights intended to protect the rights and incomes of authors. Other intellectual properties include designs, patents and trademarks. This is governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

When you create a work fixed in a tangible medium, it is automatically protected by copyright without needing to register it or hire a lawyer. However, in a lawsuit you would need to be able to show that it is indeed your own unique work. The best way to do this is to keep any planning, sketches or prototypes of the work. If you have all that, then it should be irrefutable.

On a website

When you're building a website, you don't have to use the copyright symbol '©️', but it does alert users that you're asserting your copyright. If you do use ©️, you should probably use [Copyright, Author's Name, Year]. For example, Copyright ©️ Jaydn Edwards 2020.

In the European Union (EU) and the wider world

International copyright protection is governed by the Berne Convention of 1886, which has one hundred and sixty five (165) signatories,

In the EU, copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work lasts seventy (70) years after the death of the author. Sound recordings, broadcasts, and cable programmes last fifty (50) years. After this, things tend to fall into the public domain, meaning that those works can be used by anybody for anything.

Works created while employed or freelancing

The copyright of work you create during your employment is usually owned by the employer. This is known as works made for hire.

As a freelancer, you must always agree a contract that outlines the status of copyright. Although you are the initial copyright author, the copyright is generally transferred to the client once you've been paid.

Creative commons

Material on the internet is protected by UK copyright law in the same way as material in other media. Creative Commons aims to make the assertion of copyright online simpler. You can choose from a range of off-the-shelf copyright licenses that allow you to specify the extent of your copyright. Have a look at their share your work tool to choose.

Sourcing material for work

If you are sourcing material for your work, you need to carefully check the copyright of everything you plan to use. What license does it use? Does it require attribution? This is where standard licenses, such as Creative Commons, can be useful.

Follow me on Twitter and let me know if this was useful to you!