Copyright is a form of legal protection that is designed to prevent any unauthorised use by others of a person’s creative skill and labour. To be precise, it protects the original idea of construct of information that has been made by the creator. Copyright is not something that has any sort of physical presence or tangibility; rather it is constructed by a number of economic rights which give the creator of the original work control and ownership of the work, as well as anything else that may be related to the copyrighted subject-matter. This means that the creator/owner has the right to do whatever they wish with the work, whether to sell it, copy it, broadcast it on public media (i.e. radio, television, internet, etc.).
Any protection provided by copyright only comes into effect when the work is put into a fixed form, which basically means you can’t copyright the idea stuck in your head until you have given it a tangible form. Once you’ve placed the idea into writing or constructed a drawing of the work, it is then that it can be placed under copyright protection. Once under the protection of copyright law, the work becomes the property of the person who either had the work either created or commissioned. The latter applies mostly to those who have the tangible evidence of the work made by an outside contractor, for example, you may have any idea for a new kind of bicycle helmet, but can’t draw it well enough, so you hire someone who can to do the designing for you. This means that only the original ‘inventor’, the author(s) of the idea can rightfully claim full copyright.
Simply owning a manuscript, a painting, a book, or any other kind of copy or record of the original work does not hand the copyright over to the possessor of the copy. The law outlines that giving someone a copy of your work, that is handing them the ownership of a copy, does not mean that you are giving them any rights in relation to the copyright of the original work. In short, just because someone owns a copy, does not mean they own the copyright of the original work. This is quite obvious to most people when dealing with finished works, but the lines can get a bit hazy in the early stages of development and in business deals. This is a notable worry for minors who claim copyright on their work, as different countries and different states have certain rules and guidelines when it comes to the business dealings when it comes to a minors’ copyrighted material.
The whole mess of copyrighting can get a little confusing and can be easily misunderstood, especially for people securing their work for the first time. While there are certain advantages to registering your work beforehand, there is no need for the created material to be registered, published or be subject to any other process in order for the owner to secure copyright through the Copyright office.
The work itself is automatically given copyright when created, which is when a fixed copy or other record of it is created for the first time. Basically, once the finished product or an example of a finished product is produced, the work is given copyright privileges; however the product is not completely secured until it is submitted to the Copyright Office, either by the owner, or through legal representation. In the case of a piece of work that is being made over a time line, the part of the material that is fixed on a specified date counts as the initial date of the created work.
If you think you need one, seek out and speak to your nearest Copyright Specialist.
Return to resources