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Works that copyright applies to

Visual art works

Copyright covers visual works, including:

  • paintings
  • photographs
  • sculptures
  • collages
  • works of architecture
  • works of artistic craftsmanship

Works of architecture and artistic craftsmanship

While most works are protected regardless, artistic quality is a requirement for works of architecture and works of artistic craftsmanship. The courts would decide this on a case by case basis.

Examples of works of artistic craftsmanship could include:

  • pottery
  • jewellery
  • stained glass

How to copyright your work

Copyright protection exists as soon as an original work is created in material form. An idea is not protected, but the actualised expression of it is.

For example, many people could have the idea of photographing a rose, so someone can’t own the copyright for that idea. But the copyright for a particular photograph of a rose would belong to the person who took the photo from the moment they created it – unless they created the work for an employer.

Establishing copyright

In the UK, you do not need to go through any legal process or registration to establish copyright of your work. But it’s good practice to keep records and evidence of the work you create.

You could:

  • make people aware of your copyright ownership by putting the symbol © with your name and the year of creation somewhere on the work — it’s not proof, but may help in any later copyright infringement action
  • send yourself a copy of your work, clearly date stamped, by special delivery, and keep the envelope unopened or leave copies with a solicitor — again, not proof but could help infringement claims
  • email your work to yourself, and your solicitor
  • upload a photo or video of your work to your website — the metadata attached to the digital file provides evidence of the date

Copyright Advice Service

DACS Licensing and DACS ARR members can contact our Copyright Advice Service for free advice.

Find out about DACS Copyright Advice Service


The content of this article is not intended to be applied to individual circumstances. It is not legal advice, and is not a substitute for independent legal advice.

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Licensing your work for others to use