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Rights of copyright owners

What are the exclusive economic rights?

Under copyright law, copyright owners have a number of exclusive economic rights (ie copyrights) in relation to how their copyright material is used. People wanting to use copyright material in any of the ways within the exclusive control of the copyright owner must obtain the copyright owner’s permission to do so, unless an exception applies.

The exclusive economic rights vary depending on the type of copyright material. Some examples of the exclusive rights are set out below.

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works
  • Copyright owners of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works have the exclusive right to:

    • reproduce the work (eg to scan, upload/download, photocopy, record, film)
    • publish the work (ie make it public for the first time)
    • communicate the work to the public (eg to make available on the internet, email, broadcast)

    In addition, copyright owners of literary, dramatic and musical works have the exclusive right to:

    • perform the work in public (eg a live performance of the work, playing a recording of the work in a non-domestic environment)
    • make an adaptation of the work (eg a translation of a literary work, an arrangement or transcription of a musical work)
Sound recordings, films, broadcasts and published editions
  • Copyright owners of sound recordings, films and broadcasts have the exclusive right to make a copy of the copyright material. There are also exclusive rights in relation to:

    • playing the sound recording in public
    • showing the film in public
    • communicating the sound recording or film to the public
    • re-broadcasting TV and sound broadcasts and communicating them to the public (otherwise than by broadcasting them)

    Copyright owners of published editions have the exclusive right to make a facsimile copy of the edition.

Assignments and licences

Copyright owners can assign or license their economic rights (ie copyrights). If an economic right is assigned to someone else then that person becomes the copyright owner of that right. Copyright owners can grant licences that permit another to exercise the rights they own in their copyright material.

Moral rights of authors

Authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and films have moral rights in their material. Moral rights cannot be assigned and authors retain their moral rights even if they do not own any of the economic rights (ie copyrights) in their material.

This information is provided as general information only. It provides a basic introduction to copyright and is not intended to be comprehensive.

Reviewed December 2017

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