United Kingdom/ 5.1 General legislation  

5.1.7 Copyright provisions

Original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works (including computer programmes and databases), films, sound recordings, cable programmes, broadcasts and the typographical arrangement of published editions are automatically protected by copyright in the UK if they meet the legal requirements for protection. In general terms, copyright protection may also be given to works first published in (or, in the case of a broadcast or cable programme, made in or sent from) EU member states, or from countries party to international copyright conventions, the World Trade Organisation, or reciprocal agreements. Historically, copyright legislation in the UK has differed from some of mainland Europe by its greater emphasis on the "property" owner rather than the original creator. However, the adoption of legislation over the years, not least EU Directives, is changing this. The copyright owner has rights against unauthorised reproduction, public performance, broadcasting, rental and lending, issue to the public and adaptation of his or her work; and against importing, possessing, dealing with or providing means for unauthorised copies. In most cases the author is the first owner of the copyright, and the term of copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works is generally the life of the author and a period of 70 years from the year in which he or she dies. For films, the term is generally 70 years and sound recordings and broadcasts are protected for 50 years.

In recognition of the growing threat posed by piracy to the UK film industry, the UK Film Council undertook a study which considered both the scale and extent of copyright theft and the means by which it could be countered. In terms of measures to combat piracy, the study explored the legal framework; enforcement; security measures; education and consumer awareness; and the development of new business models. The findings of this study were presented in the report Film theft in the UK, published in 2004. It sets out 30 recommendations for government, the industry and government-backed and other stakeholders, action on which is being co-ordinated by the UK Film Council-led Anti-Film Theft Task Force (see chapter 4.3 for more details)

The Digital Britain report of 2009 outlining government ambitions for digital development, suggests that the UK should become a "global centre for the creative industries in the digital age". According to the report, the three key issues for the creative sector are support for content, intellectual property and the problem of internet piracy, and the development of skills. To combat illegal downloading, the intention is to create a clearer legal framework that establishes a payment based model, and enables rights holders to pursue transgressions in the courts. Subsequently, the Digital Economy Act was passed in 2010. An information campaign to educate the public in what is lawful is also envisaged

The EU Directive which harmonises Droit de Suite (artist's resale rights) was implemented into UK law in 2006. It will be extended to the heirs and estates of deceased artists in 2012.

Blank tape levies are not applicable in the UK.

Since 1982, the Public Lending Right Scheme (PLR) has given registered authors royalties from a central government fund (totalling GBP 7.6 million in 2006-07) for the loans made of their books from public libraries in the UK. Payment is made according to the number of times an author's books are borrowed (the rate per loan increased from 5.26 pence to 5.57 pence in 2005-06). Currently, over 34 000 authors are registered for PLR. The maximum yearly payment an author can receive is GBP 6 600 from 2006-07.

The Copyright (Visually Impaired Persons) Act 2002 benefits visually impaired people who have difficulty accessing copyright material in the form in which it is published. Subject to certain conditions, they are able to make single accessible copies of copyright material, such as books, newspapers and instruction manuals, for their personal use without seeking permission from the copyright owners.


Chapter published: 15-04-2011


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