Copyright Basics

by IP Blawg on December 10, 2012

Guest post regarding copyright law basics.

Copyright law is one of the most technical and complex aspects of our legal system and most of us will at one time or another broken the law without even realizing it. If you’ve ever taped the Top 40 off the radio onto a cassette, photocopied an aran knitting pattern for a friend or bought a DVD which you know to be fake, you’ll have fallen foul of the copyright law.

copyright law

What Does Copyright Mean?

Copyright is the part of the law which protects the “intellectual property” of an author or musician. It gives the people who write books, make music or produce films legal protection over what happens to their creations. For example, you wouldn’t be able to write a story about a wizard called Harry Potter as JK Rowling has the rights to that idea and series of novels. Copyright protection lasts until 70 years after the author has died. Therefore classic works by the likes of Shakespeare or the Bronte sisters are out of copyright and can be photocopied or rewritten by anyone who pleases.


The main art of copyright protection surrounds the copying of the protected material. If you are a teacher who wants to use a novel by a living author in class, you cannot buy one book and photocopy it 30 times. Copyright demands you have one copy per student. This also applies to movies, music recordings and software or internet downloads. If you read a book or finish an aran knitting pattern and then want to sell it or give it away to someone else that is not a copyright issue.


The number of websites is growing at an exponential rate and all of these new websites need to be filled with text or articles to keep visitors reading. Most reputable sites have staff members who write copy for them, but less professional outfits just copy and paste from other people’s websites. This is also against copyright law, and if the guilty party is based in Europe or North America, enforcing copyright protection and getting the articles removed is quite straightforward. If the website is based elsewhere in the world, it may prove far more difficult to get them to take down copyrighted material.


The movie and music industry has been battling against illegal copies for decades, and with the advent of the internet and digital downloads, this problem has become even more acute. It is against copyright to upload protected material to a file sharing website, and also to download files someone else has put on the website. Internet service providers are working with movie producers and record companies to shut down some of the piracy sites and there have been several cases of downloaders being fined. The low-tech practice of going into a cinema with a movie camera and recording the latest film still persists, and many of the pirated DVDs sold at car boot sales and online are very poor quality and not worth buying, as well as being illegal.

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Some cultural or regional designs such as an aran knitting pattern are exempt from such copyright laws in most cases, however the EU is steadily taking claims for ‘Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)’ to protect traditions of specific areas, for example ‘cornish pasty’.  So watch this space when it comes to the Aran knitting pattern, which for now you can get online at retailers such as Yarnfest.

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