Copyright Bite #2.1

Red bus in London. Copyright Bites. The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair, written, directed and produced by Ronan Deazley and Bartolomeo Meletti. Illustration by Davide Bonazzi. This work is in copyright, and available to use under the CC BY 3.0 licence. Source: are many things that copyright does not protect. It does not protect information or facts, principles, concepts or ideas. This is often referred to as the idea-expression dichotomy. That is, copyright does not protect ideas, it only protects the way in which an author has chosen to express a particular idea in words or music or art. This is one of the most fundamental principles of copyright law.
Copyright Bites. Westminster Bridge, illustration by Susie Brooks. This work is in copyright, and reproduced with the express permission of the author. Source: susiebrooks.netFor example, you may have a brilliant idea for a story, a photograph or a short film, but while it remains just an idea it is not protected by copyright. So, if you told someone else about your idea, there is nothing you can do to stop that person from writing a novel, or creating a work of art, based on your idea. Your idea, while it remains no more than an idea, is not protected by copyright.
It is only when you express your idea in some particular form that copyright springs into life. It is the way in which you express your particular ideas – whether through words, musical notes or brushstrokes on a canvas – that is protected by copyright.
So, if you wanted to create a picture of a city landscape that was immediately recognisable as London, you might think about including buildings or aspects of London life that are well known throughout the world: St Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, beefeater guards or the iconic black taxi.
Copyright Bites. Photo of the Big Ben in London from Wikimedia Commons, distributed under the CC BY-SA 2.5 licence. This work is in copyright. Source: Wikimedia CommonsSusie Brooks has created a wonderful image of London incorporating Big Ben, the London Eye and a red Routemaster Bus. You can do the same; you just can’t slavishly copy Susie’s work. That is, you are free to incorporate these ideas and images of London in your own picture but you’re not free to copy the way that other artists and illustrators have expressed their own visions of London.
In this way creators are given the opportunity to benefit from their own personal expression, while the general ideas underpinning a work remain available for others to use.

More from Bite #2

Copyright Bite #2.2

In the video, Dick, an illustrator, decides to draw a robot. Robots are cool, thinks Dick. His idea is that the robot should be made up of simple geometric shapes, but with a mouth like a thermometer or a ruler.

Copyright Bite #2.3

Copyright protects only the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. In the UK the law also typically requires that your work is fixed in some tangible form before it can be copyright-protected.

Copyright Bite #2.4

When creating new work it is natural to be inspired by the work of others. Copyright promotes creativity by providing authors with rights in their work while allowing others to make use of that work in certain ways.

More Copyright Bites

Copyright Bite #1

Copyright Bite #1 considers how long copyright lasts and what it means to say that a work is protected by copyright or in the public domain.

Copyright Bite #2

Copyright Bite #2 explores how copyright protects only the expression of ideas and not ideas themselves.

Copyright Bite #3

Copyright Bite #3 considers how you can lawfully make use of, or borrow from, works that are still in copyright, but without having to ask for permission or make payment to the copyright owner.