How do you avoid copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement is quite common and isn’t always malicious or done with disregard. Yet, breaking copyright does damage the income of the original copyright owner. When it comes to handling third party content, you should always be careful. Even if you didn’t understand the laws of copyright, this isn’t going to impress in court.

We are discussing copyright as it stands in the United Kingdom, though some of the points raised are internationally relevant. If you are not in the UK, please check with your local laws about copyright laws.


Copyright works

When it comes to copyright law, there is a large amount that it can cover across different types of property. It can cover written content, music, logos, designs, paintings, video and much more.

These are all affected by copyright law. Websites aren’t usually recognised as “copyrighted” material, but their code & design can be. When creating content, it is up to the user to assign a different type of copyright to it, if they wanted to allow third parties to utilise their content.


What are my rights and credits?

When creating your own work, all your copyright belongs to you (unless created with someone else). You may recognise the phrase “All Rights Reserved” though this isn’t a legal phrase, this describes that the content is not able to be used in any format by another party.

There are other types which the owner will need to declare with their work if they wish for others to utilise the content. The Creative Commons license is commonly used in creative industries. See below for what different types of Creative Commons licenses allow.



Acronym Allows Remix culture Allows commercial use Allows Free Cultural Works Meets ‘Open Definition
Freeing content globally without restrictions CC0 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Attribution alone BY Yes Yes Yes Yes
Attribution + ShareAlike BY-SA Yes Yes Yes Yes
Attribution + Noncommercial BY-NC Yes No No No
Attribution + NoDerivatives BY-ND No Yes No No
Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike BY-NC-SA Yes No No No
Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives BY-NC-ND No No No



What about ideas & phrases?

Ideas are commonly thought of as not obtaining to copyright laws, this is actually a misconception. Just by having an idea doesn’t mean you have the copyright to it, but if your idea is being designed and worked on and a third party obtains this and puts it out into the world before you can, this can be classed as breaking copyright regulations.


What does “de minimis” mean?

De minimus can be a hard thing to claim to a piece of work. When it comes to the small things, copyright law has very little coverage in this area. When you look at newspaper headlines like “Beast from the East attacks the UK”, when this is utilised on multiple news outlets, this does not typically warrant breaking copyright as it is “insubstantial copying”.


 Should I use a copyright registration service?

 When looking at copyright registration services, it can be tempting to have your work protected by them. All you have to do it submit your magnum opus and pay a fee and they will keep your work as evidence if a future claim was to appear.

The reason these services exist is to provide evidence that a piece of work was created before a certain time. (e.g. To show that your work was created before that of someone breaking your copyright.) The problem with this is when it comes to lawsuits, the time of creation is rarely an issue.


Copyright and the “Intellectual Property”

There has to be a definitive difference between copyright and other types of Intellectual Property (IP) such as trademarks, designs and patents. Due to the number of laws on copyright in existence, it is important to note that IP rights are not interchangeable. Laws that affect written content can be different to those for patented content or design work.


Copyright infringement

When it comes to copyright infringement, it’s not all about copying someone else’s work, such as making DVD’s or CD’s of content. It could be making an adaption of the original content, this could be recreating content such as a motion picture, company logo, promotional material or marketing campaigns.


Is breaking copyright a crime?

Even though the media industry paint breaking copyright a crime, copyright infringement isn’t typically a criminal offence. It can be considered though if a business breaks copyright on a large scale. Downloading a song isn’t enough to be considered a crime, but basing a whole marketing campaign around someone else’s copyright can be considered a crime.


The importance of ©

The universal sign for copyright means little today in a court of law, the symbol mainly works as a pre-condition of copyright protection by the Universal Copyright Convention. But this is only for countries outside of the Berne Convention, which most countries are now within.

It is mainly treated as a reminder of copyright protection and if often followed after the name of the copyright owner, whether they are a company or person who owns the copyright license. Also, it’s often considered to look more professional.


When do I need to write a licence?

Copyright licenses don’t need to be in writing in English Law. If you make a logo public to the work, there is an implied licence to others that they can’t utilise or copy it. (depending on the form of creative commons you would apply).

Though, it can become unclear how far the implied licence would hold up in a lawsuit. If your work can be shown or hosted with a license or you can place your license as an easily accessible document. It enabled an extra layer of protection against copyright issues.


If you need protection from copyright infringement, think about getting yourself professional indemnity insurance. Black & White can help you find a policy that suits your business. Quick, Simple & Hassle Free. Get a Quote.