What is Copyright?

Copyright is a mix of ownership rights, exploitation rights, incentives to create work and tools to promote education. It is one of a number of Intellectual Property Rights designed to both protect and encourage the creation of artistic works. These rights confirm the legal author of an expression of an idea but do not protect the idea itself – neither an idea nor facts can be copyright. (U.K.C.S. 2010b).

Copyright specifically applies to artistic expressions of literature, painting, film, sound recording, music etc. as soon as it has physical form. Upon the creation of this record of the idea, a set of Legal rights is granted to the author. The right to make copies, the right to distribute said copies, the right to make derivative works and moral rights over how the work is used and shown to the public. As such, copyright grants rights when an intangible artistic idea has been made tangible, granting ownership over the expression of the idea – not the idea.

Netenel (2008 p.6) explains that copyright works as an incentive for authors to create by granting rights to exploit the work. Richard Watt explains that within a rigorous copyright regime, an author can make money by selling this right on to a third party (typically a publisher or producer) who can make money from exploiting the work through licenses and contracts (Kretschmer et al. 2009 p.42). This allows for exploitation of the work for profit while protecting the ownership.

This gives us two models for exploring copyright. On the one hand, it is a means to make money by granting property ownership under law and defining a means of exploitation. On the other hand, it is enabling the original idea to be freely available to facilitate education and cultural development. While on the surface these are mutually supportive by providing a financial incentive to add to culture, current law can be interpreted in such a way that the original idea is seen as a physical property. This can serve to stifle the original intention of copyright by limiting its uses and availability to only those who can afford access.

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