What is software & image copyright in the UK?

Have you ever wondered how software and image copyright work in the UK? As copyright laws go, images are likely the most stolen content on the internet. Google Images and other search engines make it easy to download an image without any care for the creator. 

Hence, image copyright is a vital aspect of copyright laws in the UK. It protects visual images from being used without permission of the creator; using somebody else’s images to publish or distribute is a criminal act. 

In the digital age, copyright laws have also had to adapt to new creative mediums, such as software creation. If you build your software you automatically own the copyright for that software in the UK. It gets slightly complicated because copyright only protects the work, not the idea. So you can only protect a piece after it’s already created, not if you thought of it first.

There’s an ocean of creativity online, here’s how to navigate yourself around image use on the internet without getting a copyright infringement. 

Copyright Laws in the UK

Copyright laws have been in place in the UK since 1911, currently, the copyright act is officially named ‘Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988’. It works to protect the creative work of others from being stolen or copied without permission. There are certain fair use guidelines in place, most commonly known as the 5% rule. Fair use allows you some leniency with how you can use copyrighted material. 

There is no solid definition of fair use, so it remains to the discretion of the user. This is a problem in many cases, as a lot of internet users aren’t aware of copyright laws. 

As soon as an image has been created it will be copyrighted by the creator automatically. Images on Google are all copyrighted unless free use is stated clearly on the source. 

A creator doesn’t need to file a copyright request, their work is automatically protected straight away. In the UK the photographer benefits from a lifetime plus 70 years of protection on their work.

Image Copyright Infringements

There are lots of things you could be using somebody else’s images for. Whether it’s an online blog article or a Facebook status, you should ask permission of the creator first. If you’ve not paid for the image and the creator is unaware of your use, you’re likely to be violating copyright laws. The most common types of copyright infringements are:

  • Reproductions
  • Copied in derivative works
  • Used and distributed by someone other than the creator
  • Displayed publicly 

There is sometimes confusion over who owns an image. The image is ultimately in the ownership of the photographer unless there is a model involved. The model does have some ability to dictate where and how the image is used. 

Furthermore, if you work for a photography company, for example, Getty Images, it’s likely that the copyright belongs to the company and not yourself. 

How to Safely Use Images Online

The safest way to use images online while avoiding copyright is to ask for permission. It’s best to get this permission in writing, however, we know this isn’t always possible. Especially if you need lots of images from lots of different sources. This is where fair use comes into play. Read about fair use in-depth in our last blog post!

Software Copyright UK 

Since copyright is supposed to cover all creators and their works, software is covered by the UK’s software rules. Software is protected from the moment that it’s been created, not when you first had the idea. Sadly, if you tell your idea to somebody who physically builds it before you, it is theirs! As long as your software is unique and not a copy of anything else made before then it is automatically covered by copyright.

You can licence your software to decide how it can be used. This can be done through third parties who will collect your royalties for you.

It is your responsibility to keep on top of your copyright and sadly there aren’t special agents searching the internet for plagiarism. You can defend your case through copyright law if you find anybody to be infringing on your rights. 

For more advice on either software copyright or image copyright in the UK get in touch with us at Minuteman Press today. Our publishers have the knowledge and expertise to answer all your printing and copyright questions. 


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