Can I copyright an idea?

You’ve come up with a great idea – for a book, a song, a video clip, an invention, or some other original work. Obviously, you want to protect your idea from theft. So you’re naturally wondering if you can copyright your idea.

The answer may be confusing: yes AND no. In the UK, as with other places around the world, copyright law applies only to something tangible, which means something that’s already been written, recorded, etc.

But there are still ways to keep your idea safe. This article will explore in detail what copyright means so you can find out how best to protect all your great ideas.

What are ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’?

The term tangible refers to something that can be seen, heard, or touched. The ideas of ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible’ are used in intellectual property (IP) law to separate ‘ideas’ from ‘products.’ Since ideas themselves aren’t tangible – you can’t touch, see, or hear them – that means that under UK law, they cannot be copyrighted.

Say you have a brilliant idea for a TV show about a doctor working in A&E. The idea itself isn’t tangible and you can’t copyright it. However… the minute you write a script, screenplay, format, or treatment – or start filming or sound recording, those products are considered tangible and are protected by copyright.

Let’s dive in a bit deeper to find out what that means.

What is a copyright?

Copyright is designed to protect the rights of creators. It is a form of protection for intellectual property (IP) – potentially marketable ideas and concepts.

Other IP terms you may be familiar with are trade mark, service mark, patent, and registered design. These are legal definitions aimed at protecting different types of IP – for example, a unique business logo, slogan, product design, or drawing.

Copyright is a specific type of protection that authors and other artistic or literary creators receive simply by recording their ideas in a unique, original form. Copyright means you control your idea and you get to decide who uses it, and in which ways.

For instance, if you are an author, you get to decide who publishes your books. If you are a songwriter, copyright means you can receive royalties whenever anyone plays your songs.

How do I copyright my work?

We’ve got good news and bad news when it comes to protecting your ideas.

The good news is that copyright is automatic – as soon as you create something, it is protected by copyright law in the UK and around the world. You do not need to do anything in order for your work to be copyrighted!

However…

The bad news is that should somebody attempt to steal your idea, you will need to provide proof that you created it before they did.

How can you do that? Here are a few tips for asserting your copyright over your creative products:

  • Use the copyright symbol on your work if possible, e.g. © [your full name] 2021.
  • Keep dated drafts of your work to demonstrate the creative process if necessary.
  • Most experts discourage the practice of simply mailing yourself a copy and leaving it sealed with the dated postmark, but this may provide some extra protection.
  • Some people deposit a dated copy of your work with a bank or solicitor, but even this isn’t a perfect solution.

However, the absolute best way to safeguard your idea is with a copyright service that uses modern information security procedures. This offers you the highest level of safety for your ideas, in full compliance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

But even once your ideas are protected by copyright, the work isn’t over…

Total peace of mind

Even if your original ideas are protected once they’re written down or recorded, you’re still not protected from theft. While you automatically have copyright over whatever you create, protecting your original work isn’t automatic – it’s up to you to be vigilant about monitoring and enforcement. And that can be a lot of work.

Fortunately, Copyright Cover are here to do the work for you. Copyright Cover not only provide copyright protection services, registering your copyright in our confidential, encrypted data storage vault, but will also track and police the entire internet, safeguarding your idea from unauthorized distribution.

Copyright Cover offer the UK’s fastest takedown service, driven by our expert team in legal and digital rights management. So you can…

  • Stop unlawful infringement
  • Avoid costly legal disputes
  • Earn ALL the money you deserve

Get the UK’s top copyright pros working for you – click here to safeguard your original creations today.

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