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A useful guide to copyright tools and resources

09 November 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gus MacDonald
A useful guide to copyright tools and resources

This November marks the 30th anniversary since the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 was introduced. In the years following numerous tools and resources have emerged to help people stay copyright compliant. In this blog post I want to cover some of the most useful ones.

Tracing copyright holders

Copyright is automatic – as soon as an item is generated which is original, fixed, and in a form that is protected by copyright law (literary works, artistic works, musical works, dramatic works, sound recordings, films and broadcasts) it will automatically be protected by copyright. There is no requirement to go through any kind of registration process. The corollary is that there isn’t one comprehensive database of rightsholders for all copyright protected material. This makes copyright compliance difficult at times, because it isn’t always easy to trace rightsowners if you need to go directly to them to ask for permission to use one of their works.

There are a number of databases which can help:

WATCH is a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields.

FOB is a database with information about vanished publishing concerns, literary agencies, and similar firms.

PLSClear is a resource for getting permission to reuse published content.

DACS artists search


Orphan works register managed by the UK Intellectual Property Office

Orphan works database managed by the EU IPO.

In addition, the Intellectual Property Office has produced orphan works guidance for doing a diligent search with specific guidance for each of a number of different types of works. These are useful because they contain checklists of a range of resources to check.

Risk management

Copyright law isn’t always clear-cut. It is best to think of copyright as a question of risk management – to think about the different levels of risk, and what makes something risky. One resource which helps with considering the risks involved is the IPR Risk Calculator.

Public domain calculator

Copyright doesn’t last forever. It has a finite period of protection (which is usually calculated as the life of the author plus 70 years), and it is therefore important to know whether a work is still covered by copyright. One tool to help with this is the Public Domain calculator

The legislation

The main piece of copyright legislation is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This has been amended many times, and it is therefore crucial that you consult an up to date annotated copy of the CDPA 1988. The IPO does have an unofficial consolidated version of the Act, although even this isn’t completely up to date (it doesn’t, for example, take account of the changes to the disability exceptions which were made in the light of the Marrakesh Treaty).

Posters and declaration forms

Within the last few weeks I was asked what form a copyright declaration form had to take. There are actually two different forms, one for published works and one for unpublished works. The legislation doesn’t give a precise form of words that has to be used for the declaration forms, but the relevant sections of the CDPA (s42A and s43) do specify what information needs to be covered. LACA – the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance – put together sample declaration forms.

There is also a copyright poster and a set of notes to accompany the poster. The notes can be found via the same link, and these were recently updated (April 2018).

Legal cases

The UK has been a member state of the European Union for 45 years and its copyright law incorporates 11 EU directives and 2 EU Regulations. Even though we are in the process of leaving the EU, the legislation which implemented these EU directives and regulations won’t suddenly be taken off the statute book in their entirety. One resource which is extremely useful for interpreting EU legislation is which is a freely accessible database of all decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union relating to intellectual property.

Paul Pedley has been a Facet Publishing author for many years, starting off with Essential law for information professionals (for which a 4th edition is currently underway), and then writing about copyright with titles including Copyright Compliance, The E-Copyright Handbook and Practical copyright for library and information professionals. He is also a CILIP trainer, and has been a member of LACA: the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance for twenty years.

Get your free guide to Copyright when you join CILIP

If you join CILIP today you will receive your own free copy of Practical Copyright for Library and Information Professionals worth £59.95

The book provides an indispensable guide for library and information professionals, bringing clarity to a complex topic along with sensible and realistic advice.

The UK’s copyright legislation has been referred to as the longest, most confusing and hardest to navigate in the world and this book is essential reading for anyone wishing to use copyright material legitimately.

When you apply for membership, enter the promotional code COPY30 to claim your free book.

This offer is available until the end of November 2018.


Contributor: Paul Pedley

Published: 12 November 2018

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