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What is copyright?

Copyright, basically, is the right to copy. For example, only the author of a creative work (the copyright owner) has the right to produce, reproduce, publish, distribute, broadcast his work or any part of it, and authorize anyone else to do so. These rights, known as economic rights, can be separately transferred, assigned, sold or licensed to others.

Every creator ought to know about Copyright

Are you song writer? Do you publish books or plays or poems? Create works of art or even create software or architectural designs? If so, the following information is very important for you.
This right covers virtually all forms of literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, along with the creation of multi-media software and even architectural designs. Performing artists and producers of sound recordings and films are also included under what are called related rights. The author of a copyright work has the right to reproduce, publish, perform, communicate and adapt his work. These exclusive rights form the bundle of rights that we call copyright and enable the owner to control the commercial exploitation of his work.

What does copyright apply to?

Copyright does not protect an idea itself, but the fixed expression of an idea. For example, many people may have an idea for a movie, but never actually write or produce it one, this idea cannot be protected. Once written it will be protected by law even before it is shot. The Copyright Act 2003 applies to novels, poems, plays, reference works, articles, computer programmes, databases, films, musical compositions, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, advertisements, maps and technical drawings, original literary, dramatic or artistic works broadcast or cable programmes, and typographical arrangement of published works. This list is however not exhaustive.

To whom does copyright apply?

All creators within the State of Antigua and Barbuda, to include citizens, legal residents, and companies established under the Antiguan Law are qualified to be copyright owners. Bilateral and multilateral Copyright Treaties also enable the protection of citizens, residents and companies of other jurisdictions, as is set out in the 2003 Act.

Does my copyright receive protection overseas?

There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s works in every country around the world. Instead, copyright protection is “territorial” in nature, which means that copyright protection depends on the national laws where protection is sought. Antigua and Barbuda receives protection as a member of the Berne Treaty, and as a result our copyright receives protection in over 116 other jurisdictions and principalities.

Who owns the Copyright in a particular work?

The Copyright Act provides that the author of a work is the “owner” of the copyright in a work unless there is a written agreement that states otherwise between author and a third party. The author is the person who creates the work. For literary work, it is the author of the material. In relation to artistic work, it is the artist. A photographer who takes the photograph is the first owner of the copyright. The publisher is the copyright owner of a typographical arrangement of the published work; and the composer of a musical work owns the rights in that musical piece. The person providing a cable service that includes a particular programme owns the copyright therein. Similarly, the person who arranges the recording of a film or sound recording holds the rights for the recording. In terms of broadcasting, the person transmitting the programme or who has provided the programme for broadcast and is responsible for its content is the holder of the copyright.

When doesn’t copyright apply?

Only original and substantial works are capable of being protected by copyright law. Subject matter is not protected under Copyright law: Ideas or concepts, discoveries, procedures, methods, works or other subject matters that not in a tangible form of writing or recording and subject matters that are not original works of the individual. The work must be fixed or placed in some permanent form for copyright to apply, e.g. written, recorded, sculpted, printed etc.

How long does copyright last?

– Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works 50 years from the end of the year in which the author died.

– Published editions of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works (layout) 50 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.

– Sound recordings and films 50 years from the end of the year in which the sound recording or film was first published.

– Broadcasts and cable programmes 50 years from the end of the year of making the broadcast or cable programme.

– Typographical arrangement 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the edition first published.

How do I copyright my work?

There is no need to file for registration to get copyright protection. An author automatically enjoys copyright protection as soon as he creates and expresses his original work in a tangible form, such as in a recording or writing. Originality simply means that there is a degree of independent effort in the creation of the work.
The finished product of your work must bear your name and the year or date of creation or publication. You may also use the universal copyright symbol (c) or the word “copyright” on the copies of your work alongside your name and the date or year. This serves to give notice to others of your rights in the work and help you prove your copyright ownership in Court. A common method of recording copyright is to place a copy of your creation in a self- addressed envelope, seal it and post it to yourself via registered mail. Once the envelope arrives, leave the envelope sealed and keep it safely. You are advised to also keep all rough work, sketches and materials used in the creative process as further proof.

What about copyright violation?

Copyright violation is better known as copyright infringement. Infringement occurs when one has not obtained consent from the copyright owner to do something that only the copyright owner has the exclusive right to do. For example, a person infringes copyright if he photocopies an article without the consent of the copyright owner.
It is important to note that one does not need to have reproduced the entire copyright work before infringement takes place. It is an infringement as long as a substantial amount of the original work, quality wise, has been copied.
Infringement also occurs when one deals commercially with infringing copies, e.g., if a person:

– Imports infringing copies for sale or distribution.

– Ssells (including distribution for trade or any other purpose to an extent that affects prejudicially the copyright owner) or lets for hire infringing copies.

– Offers infringing copies for sale or hire by way of trade.

How do I control and exploit my copyright material?

As a copyright owner, it is for you to decide whether and how to license use of your work. A licence is a contractual agreement between the copyright owner and user which sets out what the user can do with a work. An exclusive licence could be granted, but this enables the licensee to use the copyright work in the manner specified by the licence to the exclusion of all others, including the copyright owner. People can argue that a copyright work is subject to an implied licence even when there has been no agreement about a licence.
Unless a copyright owner is the only person going to use your copyright work then contracts are likely to be negotiated. At this point, you may seek advice from a lawyer, perhaps one specialising in copyright and contract law, before proceeding.
Contractual agreements are likely to be important when you:

– Need a partner to help exploit the copyright work.

– Wish to negotiate the sale or other transfer of the copyright.

– Would like to agree a licence with someone else who wants to use the copyright work.

– Would like someone else, such as a collecting society, to administer some or all of the economic rights.

How do I enforce my copyright?

Copyright infringement is a crime under the Act, which can lead to fines and / or imprisonment for those responsible. In the event that you discover that your copyright is infringed, the Police and the Supreme Court will provide your best avenues to seek remedies against those who have infringed your copyright.
Therefore the enforcement of your copyright depends predominantly upon YOU.
At the very least, consult an Attorney-at-Law to advise you on your options. Consider, though, that unless you report such infringement to the Police, they will be unable to assist you.
They are empowered to conduct investigations, carry out searches and seizures, and lay charges in these matters.

Civil Remedies

A copyright owner can take civil legal action against any person who infringes the copyright in the work. The activities that the owner can prevent vary according to the various types of works; but essentially the owner has the exclusive right to copy the work and to distribute it to the public. The owner may seek all necessary relief against the infringer, such as an injunction to prevent further infringement, an order for delivery up of the infringing items, disclosure of information about the supply and/or dealings of the infringing items and an award for damages as well as costs.

Criminal Sanctions

There are criminal aspects of copyright infringement. The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda has extensive powers of search and seizure in the investigation of alleged infringements, and has the power to confiscate suspected infringing copies.
Importing or exporting pirated articles is a criminal offense. It is also an offense to be involved in copyright piracy outside Antigua and Barbuda for the purpose of importation into Antigua and Barbuda.
The circumvention of copyright protection whether through a device or scheme is also an offense punishable by fine and/or imprisonment under the 2003 Act.

Need more information on Copyright? Please do not hesitate to come to our office.