Copyright gives protection to the ways that ideas are expressed or recorded (e.g. in writing or picture), but it does not give protection to ideas per se, or to names and titles (which are covered by trademarks). Copyright generally exists in written work (e.g. a paper or thesis, computer programs/software, a computer generated slide presentation), but it can also exist in music, sound recordings, broadcast media and pictures, and can be relied on to prevent the work from being copied or passed off as belonging to someone else. There is no need to register for copyright protection as it automatically comes into force once a tangible record of work has been created. Copyrighted material is usually represented by the statement ‘Copyright © Organisation, Year’.

Copyright in a written work lasts in the UK for the whole of the author's life plus 70 years after his/her death. If a work is produced during the course of employment, it may be the employer who owns the copyright rather than the originator unless a prior agreement has been negotiated. However, if the work is created by a freelance worker, then this situation is reversed. Copyright can be bought, sold, inherited or transferred, but the original author will lose the ability to use the copyrighted work unless a license is agreed.

A contractual agreement which transfers copyright from one person to another is referred to as an ‘assignment’ and is not effective unless in writing signed by or on behalf of the transferor. Owners of copyright can however license others to use their works and thus themselves retain ownership. The current laws regarding copyright in the UK are published in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

These copyright facts have been produced in conjunction with UDL Intellectual Property, Patent Attorneys (telephone 0113 245 2388 or email It is provided for the purposes of information only and is not intended as a comprehensive guide to copyright. In any cases where you have concerns or require advice regarding intellectual property matters, you should get in touch with your IP lead or email Medipex.

For further information visit our Copyright FAQs page.