Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

If you’re involved in a dispute over copyright or think that your intellectual property in a work may be being infringed then you’ll want to know your rights relating to the work. This post therefore examines when you are entitled to copyright in a work (when copyright “subsists”) and a further post will examine what action should be taken when copyright is infringed.

The first thing to consider when determining what your rights are relating to copyright is what broad type of copyright exists. There are two possibilities:

  1. Literary, dramatic, musical or artistic (“LDMA”) copyright (also referred to as “Classic” copyright); or
  2. Entrepreneurial Copyright

The various sub-types of Classic copyright will be examined first, before moving on to look at Entrepreneurial copyright in the next post.

Classic copyright

Analysing what the “sub-type” of copyright in a work is is the first port of call. There are four sub-types – literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. The first three (literary, dramatic and musical) are protected under s.3(1) Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 whereas artistic work is protected under s.4(1) CDPA 1988.

Literary work is defined as any work that is written, spoken or sung. It can include a table or a compilation (other than a database), a computer program, prepatory design material for a computer program, and databases (although this is subject to a slightly different type of protection).

Dramatic work includes dance or mime – it is a “work of action, with or without words or music, which is capable of performance”). This does not include poetry (even though it can be performed) as it is covered under literary work.

Musical work includes any work consisting of music, exclusive of any words or action that are intended to be sung, spoken or performed. If a work is intended to be sung or spoken then it would fall under “literary work” whereas if it were intended to be performed then it would fall under “artistic work”. Lyrics are therefore literary work and a particular musical choreography would be artistic work. The song itself is covered as both a literary and a musical work.

Artistic work includes graphic works, works of architecture, and works of artistic craftsmanship.

Originality, minimum effort and recording

In order for copyright to subsist in a work it has to be original. The author of the work must therefore have created the work through his or her own skill, judgment and individual effort, and that the work must not be simply copied. However, this does not mean that derivative works either breach copyright or are unprotected under the CPDA if they involve a sufficient degree of skill or labour to be original.

The work must also have required at least minimal effort to be covered by copyright. However, the threshold required for literary works is very low –there is no requirement for artistic merit in a work.

Further, the work must be recorded to be protected by copyright unless it is an artistic work under s.4(1) CPDA 1988. If it is an artistic work then no recording is required but some degree of performance is required for copyright to subsist.


A crucial consideration for the subsistence of copyright is, obviously, who owns the copyright to that work. Potentially, there are two owners – the creator of the copyright (under s.9(1) CPDA 1988) or the first owner of the copyright in the work (s.11(1) CPDA 1988). Who owns the copyright depends upon the particular facts in the case. It involves an examination of the relationship between the creator of the work and the company that the creator works for (if that is indeed the case).

The first thing to do is check the creator’s contract of employment for any express terms regarding ownership of the copyright of works created by the employee. Clauses such as this are normal where the employee’s job does or may involve the creation of potentially valuable items.

Secondly, was the work created in the course of employment? If so, under s.11(2) CPDA 1988 the employer is presumed to be the owner of the copyright unless there is express agreement to the contrary (in, for example, the contract of employment). However, if the employer has only commissioned the work then the presumption is that the creator owns it, not the employer commissioning the work. Any commissioning of work should therefore involve an agreement which provides for assignment or licence of the copyright to that work. However, in the absence of any express agreement there is generally implied to be a licence in existence so that the employer can use the work it has commissioned.

Thirdly, the purpose that the work was created for should be looked at.

Fourthly, the extraneous facts of the case should be considered. What, for example, is the job description of the author? Has he or she created similar work previously? If so, how has that been treated in terms of ownership? Are there any minutes of meetings or memos regarding the idea? These can be extremely important in determining the ownership of the particular work.


How long does copyright subsist for? That depends on the type of work. Normally, copyright subsists for the life of the author plus seventy years (s.12 CPDA 1988). However, particular types of copyright can have less duration. For example, the radio broadcast of a song from a CD is only protected for fifty years from the end of the year it was first broadcast.

Want to talk to an expert employment law solicitor?

You'll receive a callback from a specialist within an hour

Share →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Our awards

Request a callback

    Your first name (required)

    Your last name (required)

    Your email (required)

    Your telephone number (required)

    Brief details of your enquiry


    4.80 Average

    346 Reviews


    I dealt with Chris Hadrill who was very knowledgeable and professional. To provide some context, I raised a grievance with my Employer and with the help of Redmans received a settlement offer. I have secured alternative employment and would recommend Redmans overall. I was very satisfied with the service I received and would rate it as 5 star.

    Posted 7 hours ago

    Danielle T

    I contacted Redmans in regards to a situation I needed dealing with with my employer. This was resolved within a week of initial contact and I couldn’t be happier. Both Chris and Sacha were brilliant and couldn’t have been more helpful! Thanks guys!

    Posted 1 day ago


    Quick proccessing of my Redundancy agreement.

    Posted 4 days ago


    Fantastic support during a difficult time! Chris was fantastic, from the first conversation all the way through a difficult process. Chris supported me with a settlement agreement and his counsel was invaluable. The company I worked for tried to suggest some solicitors that they knew would simply rush through an agreement. Thankfully I found Chris and the Redmans team, what a relief! They fought for me and allowed me to keep my focus on the next stage in my career journey. If I go through anything similar in the future Redmans will be my first point of call!

    Posted 5 days ago


    Quick responses to all inquiries. Supportive and provided top-notch service. Extremely pleased with the outcome and would recommend to anyone in need of legal advise.

    Posted 6 days ago

    Ben H

    Good, quick and informative service.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Edward W

    I liked Mel Chin's approach to my inctruction. She provided clear advice and explained things in a manner that I understand. I rated her service 5 out of 5.

    Posted 1 week ago

    James B

    Great and prompt service- would recommend and use again!

    Posted 1 week ago

    Emma L

    Excellent service. From start the team where efficient and helpful, the whole process was made easy on a very stressful and upsetting situation. They worked well to support my situation and negotiate. Would highly recommend. Thank you to Chris, Sacha and the team.

    Posted 1 week ago

    Brian H

    I must say, not seeing any of you and doing all on-line works very well. Very pleased with the service and would recommend you. Fantastic service. Many thanks Brian Haines

    Posted 1 week ago

    Sheenu A

    Professionals with excellent quality of work.

    Posted 2 weeks ago

    Maris T

    I recommend Redman's Solicitors. Chris was very helpful and informative. He provided a speedy and efficient service at a reasonable price.

    Posted 3 weeks ago


    quick response, friendly staff, my issue was smoothly done. superb

    Posted 4 weeks ago


    Overall I was very satisfied with the service I received. Right from making initial contact to being contacted by Chris Hadrill. He was easy to talk to, friendly and professional and gave sound advice. I would certainly use Redman's again. Thank you for all your help, Chris. I would rate my experience as 5 star.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Jane K

    4 stars for quality of advise. the team are good but it feels rushed sometimes and hard to contact.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Arabella B

    I am so grateful to Caroline Lewis at Redmans Solicitor’s for helping me with my Unfair Dismissal Case. I was seriously impressed how easy Redmans made the whole case, and am very happy with my Settlement. I have recommended your firm to at least 5 people in the last 3 months.. Thank you Caroline and everyone at Redmans. You are Brilliant .

    Posted 1 month ago


    Highly professional and efficient service.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Tanya T

    I had the pleasure of Chris and Sacha’s experience with a work matter. They made me feel at ease with the process and explained everything thoroughly. Would happily recommend Redmans especially Chris and use them if needed I’m the future. Thank you!

    Posted 1 month ago


    I used the services of Redmans solicitors and was a quick outstanding service I engaged them in a settlement agreement after been made redundant extremely professional at all that was done and would definetly use them again

    Posted 1 month ago

    Adrian A

    Spot on support, enough to get the matter at hand sorted. No beating around the bush, no nonsense - got the job done and we all moved on.

    Posted 1 month ago

    Mark Q

    Five Stars I was most impressed by the attention, courtesy, speed and above all, professionalism in dealing with my Settlement Agreement. I would certainly have no problem in recommending this firm to anyone in need of their services.

    Posted 1 month ago