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Written works including software and databases

Copyright applies to original written works such as novels, newspaper articles, lyrics for songs, instruction manuals and so on. These are known as literary works.

There is no copyright in a name, title, slogan or phrase. But these may be eligible for registration as a trade mark, or a common-law action to prevent passing-off may give protection for unregistered trade marks. However, logos may be protected under copyright as artistic works and many trade marks may therefore also be copyright works.

You may need to get permission from a copyright owner if you wish to copy written work in any way, for example, photocopying, reproducing a printed page by handwriting or typing it or scanning into a computer ; or rent or lend books and so on, to the public, unless any exceptions apply.


Software, that is computer programs, and games for games consoles are protected on the same basis as literary works.  Conversion of a program into or between computer languages and codes corresponds to adapting a work. Storing any work in a computer amounts to copying the work. In addition, running a computer program or displaying work on a video display unit (VDU) will usually involve copying and thus require the consent of the copyright owner.


Databases may receive copyright protection for the selection and arrangement of the contents. In addition, or instead, database right may exist in a database. This is an automatic right and protects databases against the unauthorised removal and re-use of the contents of the database.

Jargon buster

  • The Act refers to 'literary' works rather than 'written'
  • Software can include computer programs and games for games consoles