General English

General Science

  • noun a legal right which writers or programmers have allowing them not to have their own work copied without the payment of royalties.


  • verb to confirm the copyright of a written work by inserting a copyright notice and publishing the work


  • noun a legal right which protects the creative work of writers and artists and prevents others from copying or using it without authorisation, and which also applies to such things as company logos and brand names


  • noun an author’s legal right to publish his or her own work and not to have it copied. This lasts for fifty years after the author’s death under the Berne convention, but in 1995, the European Union adopted a copyright term of 70 years.

Information & Library Science

  • noun the legal right, which the creator of an original work has, to only allow copying of the work with permission and sometimes on payment of royalties or a copyright fee


  • noun an author’s legal right to publish his or her own work and not to have it copied, which lasts 50 years after the author’s death under the Berne Convention, or a similar right of an artist, film maker or musician

Media Studies

  • noun legal ownership of a piece of intellectual property, protection by law against its theft or exploitation


  • adjective covered by the laws which limit the right to copy books or other written materials


  • In the theater, the legal protection afforded to the ownerof a dramatic work, who is entitled to a royalty fee if his play isperformed or published. Most countries recognize a copyright lastingat least 50 years after the author's death. Any infringement is acivil offence that can lead to an injunction or an action for damages.

    In Shakespeare's time a playwright who published his worklost control of it to the printer. Throughout the 17th century thedramatist received no money from his work after its first run (whichwas rarely more than three performances), even if the work remainedin a company's repertory.

    The first English Copyright Act, passed in 1709, granted copyrightfor 14 years, renewable for 14 more. However, playwrights usuallysold this to the theater or a publisher for a small sum and throughoutthe 18th century depended upon benefit performances for adequateincome.

    Efforts by the Dramatic Authors' Society led in 1833 to England'sfirst copyright law applying specifically to plays. This was followedby a detailed Literary Copyright Act in 1842. However, as acting rightsto printed plays still belonged to the publisher, dramatists usuallytried to keep their works out of print. Until the late 19th centurythe right of 'copyright performance' was traditionally consideredlost if a play was published before being performed. This led GeorgeBernard Shaw and others to hire actors for public readings in a hallor other public place, usually without costumes or scenery. Such 'copyrightperformances' have led to confusion in dating the premieres of manyworks.

    The Berne Convention of 1886 established the InternationalCopyright Union, amended in 1896 and 1908 and revised at Stockholmin 1967. Additional protection came from the Universal Copyright Conventionsigned at Geneva in 1952.

    In Britain the Copyright Act of 1911 gave full protectionto works intended for performance. The Copyright Act of 1956 was arevision to cover such modern media as films, records, radio, andtelevision. Following the European Single Market Act (1992), copyrightprotection in EU countries was harmonized at 70 years after death.

    US copyright law derives from the British Act of 1709. Thefirst US Act was passed in 1790. The US dramatist George Henry Boker(1823 - 90) worked particularly hard to secure full legal protectionfor playwrights. An 1856 copyright act provided for registration ofworks in local courts (later the Library of Congress). The US CopyrightAct of 1909 remains in effect today with amendments.