Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Copyright law

The copyright law has been amended several times. The current copyright law in the UK is governed by the Copyright, Patent and Trademark Act 1988. The act states that for written, dramatic musical works or films 5 copyright expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the author dies. While for sound recording and broadcasts copyright expires at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the recording/broadcast was made. In terms of typographical arrangements of published editions which includes the appearance, layout and style of the work, it expires at the end of the period of 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the edition was first published. The act is clear on the duration of the right. However, it is not quite so clear on what constitutes an infringement. The law states that as long as the work does not lie within the ‘ exception to copyright ’ and a ‘ substantial part ’ of the work has been used without the author ’ s permission, then infringement has occurred. A list of exceptions is stated in the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act where the work listed will not be considered as copyright infringement. The work stated in the law generally benefits societal development and enhances the convenience of usage. For example, educational materials, non-commercial research and private study work, news reports, work that benefits disabled people, the extraction of materials for the ‘ purpose of parody, caricature or pastiche ’ will be exempted and not be regarded as violation under the current copyright law. 6

The importance of copyright

Copyright plays a vital role in society: it protects artistic value, integrity and innovation while providing compensation for the authors or the rights holders when their work is being used. The work may act as a valuable asset for the author since it may be their (main) source of income. Macaulay once said that ‘ Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men .’ 7 Copyright promotes creativity by compensating for any financial loss and/or for the effort that the author put into their work, while the infringing party may then use the work under certain conditions, such as payment of a royalty. The Berne Convention is one of the most significant agreements in Intellectual Property. It has meant that authors are on an equal footing regardless of geography and maximizes the protection available in copyright cases. There are currently 180 contracting parties for this convention, including both developing and developed countries. Since the Berne Convention provides the minimum standard of protection and the duration of copyright protection for signatories, it becomes essential for citizens who are located in less developed countries.

The Berne Convention sets out the range of protection that contracting parties should abide by. Article 2(1) 8 states: The expression ‘ literary and artistic works ’ shall include every production in the literary, scientific

5 Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988, c.48. Available at: (Accessed: 03 April 2022). 6 GOV.UK (2021) Exceptions to Copyright. Available at: (Accessed: 21 November 2021). 7 The Public Domain. (n.d.) Macaulay on Copyright. Available at: (Accessed: 13 December 2021). 8 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. (1979) World Intellectual Property Organisation. Available at: (Accessed: 03 February 2022).


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