Copyright might sound like a very technical concept, but in reality, it’s simple. If you create something – say you make a film, write a song, or design a book cover – copyright protects your work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional or an amateur, and you don’t need to do anything more to ensure that protection – copyright automatically applies to, and safeguards, all your creative work.
That means you get to decide if, and how, other people can use your work, and whether they need to pay you to do so. Copyright is really just about ownership: a law which says if you make something, you own it, and that means you can decide what happens to it. Likewise, if you want to use someone else’s work, especially if you want to make money from that work, in general (with a few exceptions) you need the copyright owner’s permission to do so.
If you can make money from what you create, there’s a huge incentive to carry on creating. And it’s on this common-sense principle that the whole creative industries are founded. These days, the creative industries are recognised as one of the UK’s crowning triumphs, with British-made films, television, music, books and video games consumed, enjoyed and celebrated around the world.
Not everyone respects Intellectual Property (IP). The latest data published by the Intellectual Property Office found that 15% of internet users – 6.7 million people – are still accessing content that infringes copyright – getting it from websites, apps and other sources that are not authorised to provide that content. For example, the three month period from March to May 2016 saw copies of films and TV programmes accessed 24 million and 27 million times respectively from illegal sources online. This scale of infringement prevents the creative industries from reaching their true potential, siphoning money out of the legitimate digital economy into the hands of criminals who have contributed nothing to the creative process. It also creates an unfair playing field for legal creative content services online and poses direct risks to consumers as illegal sites frequently carry malware and viruses.
It’s vital that all of the participants in the ecosystem, including the consumers of creative content, play their part and ensure that IP is appropriately valued and protected.
By not strengthening and enforcing the IP framework effectively, we are putting important industries and revenue streams in jeopardy. Today a huge proportion of creative content is consumed online and whilst attitudes to illegal downloading, streaming and use of Apps and ‘Add-ons’ that facilitate access to illegal copies of content are slowly changing, and the industry has invested heavily in making legal content easier than ever to find and enjoy, there remains a feeling among some that these ‘rich’ industries can look after themselves, and that it’s too difficult to stop people accessing and sharing content illegally if they want to. Both are damaging misconceptions and we all need to be part of the solution.