Copyright overview

An original piece of work is covered by copyright. It could be a piece of music, a play, a novel, photos or a piece of software. Copyright can be enforced by law. It is against the law to copy and distribute copyrighted material without the copyright owner’s permission.

Copyright facts

  • Copyright is automatic and there is no need to register for it.
  • The symbol © indicates copyright but a piece of work is still covered without it.
  • Copyright does not last forever and will expire after a certain period of time.
  • It is illegal to share copyrighted material on the internet without the copyright owner’s permission.
  • If you create a piece of work for your employer, the copyright usually belongs to them.

Software copyright

Software is covered by copyright. It prevents:

  • copies being made and given to friends and family for free, or being sold for profit
  • using software on a network, where multiple users can access it (unless the licence permits it)
  • lending the software to friends or family

There are exceptions. Some copyright owners allow their work to be copied and distributed for educational use or for non-profitable use. The copyright owner will make this clear.

Search engine images

Images returned by search engines do not belong to the search engine and are not free to use. The search engine has included them from a number of websites. All of the major search engines provide a link to the website that the original image is from. If you want to use an image you have found using a search engine, always check who it belongs to.