Keeping your intellectual property safe – 4 things to consider

Following the recent accusation from illustrator Chris Riddell that John Lewis copied his work with their Christmas advert featuring ‘Moz the Monster’, here are 4 things to consider when faced with the possibility that your work may have been copied:

1. Can you establish that you own the copyright? Copyright arises automatically in original work - you don’t need to register your work or pay a fee to ensure your rights are protected. It applies to original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works but also films, broadcasts and sound recordings. A work is judged to be original if it is the product of your own skill and labour or intellectual creation, rather than simply replicating the work of someone else.

2. Has that copyright been infringed? The primary acts of copyright infringement include copying or reducing the protected work, issuing copies of the work to the public, renting/lending the work to the public, performing the work in public and making an adaptation of the work. Also, dealing in infringing copies of a work, for example, selling or importing copies without the licence of the copyright owner, may also be an infringement of the copyright.

3. What remedy are you entitled to? Depending on the nature of the infringement, you might be entitled to seize infringing items, obtain an injunction to stop someone from infringing, obtain damages for your losses or an account of the profits made by the infringing party. In some cases, criminal penalties may also apply.

4. What can you do to protect yourself? Copyright cannot be registered. You can however use the copyright symbol © with your name and the year of creation. This way you are highlighting that you are aware of your rights and it helps to deter others from copying your work. To avoid future disputes, you should also keep evidence of your original work such as drafts, dated records and sketches.