Copyright & Design Myths

Below are some Copyright & Design Myths. Please click on the text to see if it is true or false.

If an image is displayed by a search engine then it's not copyright protected / If it doesn't have a copyright notice, it's not copyright protected


Images on the internet or images that are posted without a copyright notice may still be protected by copyright. A copyright owner does not implicitly license others to use the copyright work simply by making it available on the Internet.

I can legally copy 10% without it being infringement / If you take a bar/two bars or less of music it can't be infringement / As long as you are always 2/5 notes away from the original piece of music, you will be OK


There are no reliable, valid numerical rules of thumb. The English legal test for copyright infringement is whether the defendant has copied all or a substantial part of the earlier work (e.g. a painting or book). It is possible to copy a relatively small amount of the earlier work yet still have copied a "substantial part", especially if the "best" or original/distinctive bits have been taken. Does the part copied contain the expression which is the author's own intellectual creation?

Seven (or various other numbers) changes to a design is safe from infringement


In design law, the test for infringement is whether the later design "does not produce on the informed user a different overall impression". Therefore, changing a fixed number of design features, whether seven or another apparently "safe" number, might prevent infringement but, of course, it depends on what and how much has been copied from the original.

If I don't charge for it (in terms of copyrighted material), it's not a violation


Liability for infringement of an IP right is generally not affected by whether the act was done on a commercial or non-commercial basis. As such, an infringer will not be released from liability simply because no money was made from the infringement.

If you acknowledge the original work, then it's OK


Acknowledgement may assist if you are relying upon a "fair dealing" defence. For example, if you are dealing with a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work for the purposes of research for a non-commercial purpose you must sufficiently acknowledge the work you are copying in order to fall within the defence. However, acknowledgement alone will not provide a defence to copyright infringement.

Parodying a work is a defence to copyright infringement claims


As things stand, there is no English law exception to copyright for parody, caricature or pastiche. Even though the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property in 2006 recommended that one be created, this has not been implemented. This means that, if the parody copies a substantial part of the original work, then this would amount to prima facie copyright infringement and the parodist would need to consider whether they could rely on any of the usual fair dealing defences, such as criticism or review.

I own the painting so I can exploit it e.g. by selling postcards of the picture


With a copyright work such as a painting or sculpture, there is a distinction between ownership of the physical object and ownership of the copyright in it. While ownership of the physical object can be transferred by delivery (e.g. by giving or selling the object to someone else), copyright can only be transferred by assignment, will or operation of law. So as an example, the buyer of a painting cannot exploit that painting by selling postcards or posters of it without first obtaining the copyright owner's consent.