Copyright Law Explained | Basic Guide for Businesses

3 January 2023|Related :

If you own a business, you should make sure you understand all there is to know about Copyright laws.

Not only do these laws have the power to protect your business from having its intellectual property stolen, but they could also land you in a lot of trouble if you don’t abide by them properly- and it can be easily done if you aren’t clued up on them.

In an age where saving an image, copying text, embedding videos and adding music to content has never been easier, many companies land themselves in hot water when the owners of the content ask for proof of purchase or licensing which they cannot provide.

That’s why we’ve written this handy guide to Copyright law, so you can make sure your intellectual property is protected and that you don’t end up inadvertently breaking the law.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a law that automatically protects your intellectual property. This is defined as any type of design, invention, logo, symbol, image or name used in commerce.

How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

When you start a business or launch a new product, it is important to protect your intellectual property so that nobody can use or copy your work without your permission, and if they do so, you are able to take legal action against them.

Any piece of writing, art, photography, film, music and web content you produce is automatically protected under UK Copyright laws. However, it’s important to note that Copyright only protects the form of expression of an idea, not just the idea itself.

Intellectual Property Protections You Should Apply For

There are 3 types of intellectual property protections that require the owner to register their work. 

It is usually enough for small businesses to register for trademarks and registered designs, unless the idea is an invention potentially worth a significant amount of money, in which case you would need to apply for a patent.


It’s always a good idea to register your company or brand name, product names, logos and jingles when setting up your business. It typically takes around four months for applications to be registered, so it’s best to apply as soon as you set up.

Digital Trademarks

Make sure to secure any domain names and social media handles for your company or brand’s website. This prevents opportunists from sitting on URLs and social media accounts and demanding significant amounts of money to release them to you.

Registered Designs

Registered designs protect the appearance of a product, including the shape, packaging, patterns, colours and decoration. Unless your design has been registered, there is nothing to stop another business from making and selling a similar looking product.


Patents are designed to protect inventions and products and the way in which they work. For example you may wish to patent a machine, machine parts, tools or medicine. You can only obtain a patent if the invention is new, involves an inventive step, is capable of industrial application and isn’t an excluded item.

Please note that it often takes around five years for the IPO to make a decision on whether to grant the patent. Whilst a patent is pending, it is advised to keep your invention a secret and ensure that anyone you discuss the idea with signs a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

When it comes to sourcing assets for your work, it is essential that you obtain the relevant licence or make sure the material you’re using is copyright free.

This is especially important when sourcing materials from the internet. Just because it is publicly available doesn’t mean it is free for you to use- they are protected by the same laws that govern books, films and music.

There are many websites available where you can obtain images, videos and music for free with commercial licensing, meaning you can use it within your company’s social media, website, brochures and videos.

However please note that many of these require some sort of attribution.

One website that doesn’t require payment or attribution is Unsplash.

Alternatively, you can pay for the licences to use individual materials, or subscribe to websites such as Adobe Stock, Dreamstime or Envato for access to a library of assets for a set monthly or annual payment. 

Legal Business Advice

If you’re looking for expert business advice and guidance on how to ensure your operations are legal and meeting all of HMRC’s strict reporting requirements, get in touch with our team at Ryans Chartered Accountants.

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