Show/hide main menu



Copyright is a complex subject. These pages aim to provide information and guidance but should not be taken as legal advice or relied upon as a definitive statement of the law. 

Relationship between IPR & Copyright

Copyright is one of a number of laws and rights that govern Intellectual Property Rights in the UK and elsewhere.  These include:

  • Copyright
  • Moral rights
  • Performance rights
  • Database rights
  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Designs 

What is copyright?

  • Copyright is the legal right governing who may copy or adapt a piece of intellectual property
  • It is a property right, providing legal protection to the owners of works
  • It is time restricted, but timings differ according to media
  • It can be granted or sold in different ways, e.g. an author can grant permission for their work to be used in different formats, in different territories, for particular periods of time 

What does copyright apply to?

  • Ideas and facts are not copyrightable but something made tangible into a fixed and copyable form is
  • Eight categories of work are copyrightable:
    • literary works
    • dramatic works
    • musical works
    • artistic works
    • sound recordings
    • films
    • broadcasts
    • typographical arrangements of published editions
  • What is produced must be original
  • Skill and judgement is required, proportionate to your ability
  • If all these criteria are in place copyright automatically exists, it does not need to be registered

 Who owns copyright?

  • Typically the creator of the work, but not inevitably
  • Work undertaken by an employee within an organisations, including universities like King’s, is owned by the institution
  • King’s typically (but not always) waives the copyright to work by researchers to enable scholarly publication of academic books and journal articles etc
  • Funders and grant awarding bodies may sometimes claim an interest as a condition of the grant. Commissioned work is usually owned by the commissioning agency.
  • See King’s Code of Practice for Intellectual Property, Commercial Exploitation & Financial Benefits

How long does copyright last?

Copyright protection starts as soon as a work is created. Once copyright has expired, anyone can use or copy the work. The length of copyright depends on the type of work. 

UK Copyright Duration
 Type of workHow long copyright usually lasts

Written, dramatic, musical and artistic work

70 years after the author’s death

Sound and music recording

70 years from when it’s first published


70 years after the death of the director, screenplay author or composer


50 years from when it’s first broadcast

Layout of published editions of written, dramatic or musical works 

25 years from when it’s first published

Using copyright material

See Copyright & Teaching and Copyright & Research pages

  • When planning to use material that is or may be copyrighted, consider the following questions:

–      Where are you using the material? A web page? In the VLE? Some printed publicity material?  Material that is freely available online has a higher risk of being identified as infringing copyright.

–      Can you acceptably substitute another resource that doesn't have copyright restrictions? 

  • How to copy legitimately:

–      Use a work that you are free to use without requesting permission, e.g. a work licensed by Creative Commons licence such as CC-BY

–      Own the work

–      Buy or operate under a licence

–      Use an exception in UK law

–      Seek permission from the rights owner

Notice and takedown policy

When reasonable endeavours to identify or locate copyright owners have failed, an increasingly common approach is to offer a ‘Notice and takedown policy and procedure’ in which you undertake to swiftly remove material if an owner so requests. The model policy and procedure below is based on that of The British Library.  Remember that not all challenges and claims are correct. 

Sample ‘Notice and takedown policy’

If you are a rights holder and are concerned that you have found material on our website, for which you have not given permission, or is not covered by a limitation or exception in national law, please contact us in writing stating the following:

  • Your contact details
  • Full details of the material and when you found it
  • Proof that you are the rights holder and a statement that, under penalty of perjury, you are the rights holder or are an authorised representative
  • Your contact details and address

Upon receipt of notification, the Notice and Takedown Procedure is then invoked as follows: 

  1. The project will acknowledge receipt of your complaint by email or letter and will make an initial assessment of the validity of the complaint.
  2. Upon receipt of a valid complaint the material will be temporarily removed from the project website pending an agreed solution.
  3. The project will contact the contributor who included the material, if relevant. The contributor will be notified that the material is subject to a compliant, under what allegations, and will be encouraged to assuage the complaints concerned.
  4. The complainant and the contributor will be encouraged to resolve the issue swiftly and amicably and to the satisfaction of both parties, with the following possible outcomes:
    • The material is replaced on the website unchanged.
    • The material is replaced on the website with changes.
    • The material is permanently removed from the website.
  5. If the contributor and the complainant are unable to agree a solution, the material will remain unavailable until a time when a resolution has been reached.


Copyright and the law
  • There is no such thing as ‘International copyright’, each country passes their own laws.
  • The Berne Convention (for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works) functions to create some degree of unity, as all signed countries agree to respect each other’s copyright and follow agreed principles. The great majority of the world’s countries have signed the convention.
  • The 1988 Copyright Designs & Patents (CDPA) Act is a key point in UK law.
  • The law tries to balance the rights of copyright-holders to have a say in use of their works and to make money from them, balanced against public interest activities such as using copyrighted works in education, culture etc.
  • In England & Wales points of law are extracted from the decisions of cases that come to court. These points of law become precedents which are binding on other courts at the same level or lower. Law is created bottom up, from a specific case to a general principle.  The law changes by new cases arising with different circumstances, and by lawyers persuading opinion on which elements of the case are most compelling. Changes in the law are untested until they come to court.
  • Key words and phrases from the CDPA 1988 are not defined, deliberately so, including:  ‘Original’, ‘Substantial’, ‘Reasonable’, and ‘Fair Dealing’.
  • It is rarely possible to make blanket statements about copyright compliance that are universally applicable. In each case you need to consider the particular circumstances, highlighting any risks, and try to determine whether the act of copying being proposed is legal.



Sitemap Site help Terms and conditions  Privacy policy  Accessibility  Modern slavery statement  Contact us

© 2019 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454