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Copyright - students: What is copyright?

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What is copyright?

Copyright is there to make sure that creators are properly recognised for their work – sometimes this means being paid.

Most work that is created is covered by copyright or intellectual property rights:

  • literary works - books, journal articles, newspaper columns, personal letters, emails, computer programmes, song lyrics, handouts and leaflets, etc.

  • artistic works - paintings, photographs, illustrations, logos, maps, etc.

  • musical works - compositions, recordings, performances, etc.

To have copyright items must be original, ‘fixed’ and show skill or judgement by the creator or creators – but they don’t need to have been published, registered or marked with a copyright symbol ‘©’.

It is difficult to be clear about what you can do, what you can’t do, and what you can only do with special permission. This is because there are many different types of sources, and you get access to them in many different ways.


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