Copyright in broadcasts

Broadcasts made on or after 1 August 1989 are protected by copyright under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 provided that certain criteria are met.

Broadcasts made before 1 August 1989 may be protected by copyright under earlier legislation.

What is a broadcast?

A “broadcast” is an electronic transmission of visual images, sounds or other information which is transmitted for simultaneous reception by members of the public and is capable of being lawfully received by them, or is transmitted at a time determined solely by the person making the transmission for presentation to members of the public.

However, internet transmissions are excluded from the definition of “broadcast” unless:

  • the internet transmission takes place simultaneously on the internet and by other means; or

  • the internet transmission is a concurrent transmission of a live event; or

  • the internet transmission is a transmission of recorded moving images or sounds forming part of a programme service offered by the person responsible for making the transmission, being a service in which programmes are transmitted at scheduled times determined by that person.

Safeguards relating to certain satellite broadcasts

Since satellites are often located outside of the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 contains safeguards in relation to certain satellite broadcasts.

Where the place from which a broadcast by way of satellite transmission is made is located in a country other than an “EEA” (European Economic Area) state and the law of that country fail to provide the following level of protection as a minimum:

  • exclusive rights in relation to wireless broadcasting equivalent to those afforded to authors of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works, films and broadcast relating to infringement by communication to the public;

  • a right in relation to live wireless broadcasting equivalent to that conferred on a performer under the provisions relating to the consent required for the live broadcast of a performance; and

  • a right for authors of sound recordings and performers to share in a single equitable remuneration in respect of the wireless broadcasting of sound recordings

the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 treats the place from where the broadcast is made as the place where the “uplink station” (the place from which the programme-carrying signals are transmitted to the satellite) is located, if it is located in an EEA state. If, however, the uplink station is located outside of the EEA but the broadcast has been commissioned by a person situated in the EEA the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 treats the place from where the broadcasts is made as being the place where the person commissioning the broadcast is based.

How long does copyright in a broadcast last?

As a general rule copyright in broadcasts expires at the end of the period of 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the broadcast was made. The fact that a broadcast may be repeated does not affect the duration of copyright since it is the date of the original broadcast that is taken into account when determining the duration of copyright. There is, however, an exception to this general rule where the author of the broadcast is not a national of an EEA state.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.