Copyright is a form of intellectual property management that relates to literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works as well as typographic arrangements, recording and broadcasts. Within the context of the design consultancy this would mostly relate to artistic works, with all drawing and two dimensional works being included. 

It was first established in the Statute of Anne in 1710 stating that “copyright comes into existence with the act of composition by an author” (Gowers Review of Intellectual Property, 2006). Originally it was a fairly short period of protection at 14 years. This period was extended through the next couple of centuries until you reach modern day copyright which is protects under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Copyright is awarded automatically when a piece is created, so therefore has no forms to fill in and no fees. There is no official register for copyright in the UK so the company would have to keep the original versions of the works that have been signed and dated to act as verification. By doing this they would protect themselves from infringement by making it illegal to reproduce the works without the company’s permission until 70 years after the author’s death. In the case of computer generated images this is reduced to 50 years. There are exceptions to this time period which are discussed later. It isn’t necessary to apply a © symbol to a piece to ensure copyright, however most firms use this as a way of deterring infringement as a visual warning that they are aware of intellectual property laws.

In Caru’s case all intellectual property would belong to the company, when outsourcing work to other companies or freelancers it is important that ownership of the copyright is included in any contracts. This prevents any legal issues should ownership be questioned. On the reverse when the company is selling the artwork to manufacturers it has the options to either sell the design outright including the copyright, however retain the moral rights, effectively severing Caru Design’s tie to any legal ramifications that could arise; or the design can be licensed to the manufacturers allowing Caru Design to retain the ownership to the design.

By licensing it is possible to split the copyright with several companies, the work can then be used for different reproductions for example a design could be licensed to a manufacturer or seller whilst the images could also be licensed to a journal for an article or review. This method of splitting enables a wider use of the product, yet requires carefully written usage contracts to ensure that a party doesn’t infringe on the original purpose of the license. An example of good licensing is with The Simpsons, a wide range of products are produced using their image from a wide range of manufacturers.

With the spread of e-commerce and the internet it has become very easy to find a wide range of work. It has also made it easier for copyright to be infringed since it is very difficult to enforce matters relating to websites. Another concern is that when working with clients or employees in foreign countries their copyright laws won’t match up with those of the United Kingdom or even the European Union, for example countries like Eritrea, Turkmenistan and San Marino don’t have any copyright law. Without being able to police the internet there is a greater capacity to reproduce and transform those works creating infringement upon the originals, which may not be made aware to the company for some time.

Pressures are being applied for change due to the internet in order to create balance between availability of cultural works at affordable prices whilst maintaining a dignified economic existence for creators and performers.

There are situations where copyright can be broken but not infringed upon, such as when the item is newsworthy and will be on sale for one day, such as with newspapers; if it is for a longer periodical or journal then the copyright must be sought from the creator. It also must be relevant to current affairs.

Other exceptions include when the piece is used in order to be critiqued or reviewed, and in those situations it is acceptable and considered “fair dealing” as long as the work accompanies an article, which is a review or criticism and is directly commented on in the article; for example in Caru Design’s situation its considered fair to reproduce a work included in an exhibition in a piece reviewing that exhibition. It however isn’t considered fair if the reproduction has “distorted, cropped or tinted images, additions, etc, or any treatment considered a derogatory treatment” (dacs.org.uk), and has a relatively small amount of text accompanying the reproduction. The other major exception is if the piece is used for educational purposes. Within this the reproducer is allowed to make “single copies or take short extracts of works”, as long as the intention isn’t to make money from it, and it is only for “private study, for educational courses or even for use in connection with a hobby” (ipo.gov.uk).  


In the next discussion we shall look at Patents!

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