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Copyright: Protecting Your Own Work

Your work is automatically protected by copyright from the moment it is created.

The Copyright Owner

Copyright is automatically given to the author or creator of an original work.  

Copyright protects this work from being used without the author's permission

Copyright allows for that author or creator to profit from their creation, either by selling or licencing their work.

Copyright protection is automatic.  An author or creator does not need to publish, register or apply for copyright.

Copyright applies to any works created in hard copy or electronic format.   This includes:

  • literary, dramatic or musical works;
  • illustrations, photographs, designs or artistic works;
  • film or moving images;
  • sound recordings or broadcasts;
  • computer programmes, data sets (including databases), and even typographical arrangement.

Any piece of work which has been written or recorded in some way (published and unpublished) is protected by copyright.  A work that has been expressed in a 'fixed' way is protected by copyright.  Thoughts, ideas and facts are not.

A copyright owner has exclusive rights over a copyright work.  

Only copyright owners have the right to authorise activities known as restricted acts.  These include

  • Copying the work
  • Issuing copies of the work to the public
  • Renting or lending the work
  • Publicly performing the work
  • Electronically sharing the work to the public
  • Adapting the work

The copyright owner also has performance rights to their work(s). This means that consent must be provided by the copyright owner before any

  • live performance,
  • broadcast of a live performance or,
  • recording of a broadcast of a live performance.  

Individual performers also have rights in their performance.  Whether this is singing, acting, playing a musical instrument or any other form of performance.  Full information on performers' rights is set out in Section 182 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988.

Without the copyright holder's permission, anyone else undertaking one of these restricted acts is breaking the law.

The copyright owner also has economic rights with regard to the work. This means that they can profit from their work by renting or selling the work or by licensing the work for use by others.

The copyright owner also has moral rights in regard of the work. Moral rights include:

  • The right of attribution. That is, the right to be identified as the creator of a particular work. It is important to note that this right does not come into effect until it is asserted. That's why you'll often see in the front of books, for example, "Jane Doe has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work".
  • The right of integrity. 


For works of art, music, drama or literature, the author or the creator of the work is the first owner of the copyright.

For works on film, the copyright owner is the principal director of the film along with the film's producer. 

Broadcasters own the copyright for radio and television broadcasts. 

Publishers own the copyright for published works.

Joint authors share ownership of copyright. 

An original work may also have 'layers' of copyright.  For example, the text of a book may belong to the author; translation of that text to the translator; illustrations to the artist and the typesetting arrangement to the printer/publisher. 

It is also important to note that copyright ownership can be transferred, inherited or sold. It is not always safe to assume that even if you are the original creator of the work, you may no longer be the copyright owner.

You may not hold the copyright of work that has been commissioned  by a third party or work created as part of your employment. 

Remember: as soon as it is created your work is protected by copyright. Upon creation, standard practice is to add, for example, Your Name, (c) 2021 to show the date of creation. 

Previously, authors would send a copy of their work through the post to themselves to prove it was in existence by a certain date. These days, such actions are unnecessary as computers will automatically date documents that are created on them. 

Generally speaking, if you have created a work as part of your employment then your employer is the copyright owner. The terms and conditions of your employment should provide details on who owns the works created during your employment and how they will be used and protected.

If you have created your work as part of your employment at Aberystwyth University, please refer to this document which outlines the University's Intellectual Property Policy 


In the United Kingdom, copyright law is enshrined in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act of 1988. 

Specific sections of that Act that relate to protecting your own work can be found below, namely: