Intellectual property – guidance

Copyright notices

A copyright notice is a concise note published by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) providing basic copyright guidance.

The copyright notice service allows anyone to ask us to provide basic guidance on an area of copyright law where there is particular confusion or misunderstanding.

It is therefore intended to make a significant impact over and above the general background to copyright law which we already provide.

A copyright notice is intended to provide an authoritative, impartial and reliable point of reference.

2. Limitations of the service

The copyright notice service does not intend to deal with specific disputes which are primarily of interest only to the parties concerned.

It does not make new law and it does not issue a direction to a judicial making body. It is not a substitute for a legal case and it is not the same as a statutory piece of legislation.

3. Audience

The service is aimed at those who do not have access to expert legal advice such as Small and Medium sized Enterprises. It is designed to address issues which are of broad concern.

The copyright system can be inconsistent and confusing, particularly in relation to the application of new technologies, and this leads to imbalances of information between rights holders (such as publishers) and users (such as teachers and researchers).

By providing clear and reliable information on what is permissible under copyright law, the notices will, for example, help schools and other educational institutions make better judgments about lawful uses of copyright works.

4. Using the service

There are no special requirements, but you will need to complete the online form. The issue at stake should be outlined as clearly as possible with relevant background.

While we prefer you submit requests using the online form, we will accept requests in writing. If you wish to write to us, please send any requests to the below address. Unfortunately we won’t be able to confirm receipt of your request if you send your request by post.

Copyright Notices
Intellectual Property Office
4 Abbey Orchard St

There is no fee to submit a request.

For any general enquiries about copyright notices, please email

5. Next steps

We have discretion over when to respond to a request for a notice and it is unlikely that it will be able to provide a notice in response to every request. Further details of when we will issue a notice, in particular the prioritisation criteria it will apply in deciding which issues merit priority, are set out below.

If we decide to issue a notice, we will inform the applicant as soon as possible and if we decide not to do so, we will pass the request to our Information Centre to be dealt with by them in the normal way.

We will periodically review notices to ensure they remain up to date both in terms of the law and developments in technology. Notices will be clearly marked with the date of issue and of any update. Notices will reflect the law as at the date of their issue or, where applicable, the latest update.

Copyright notices will be published on GOV.UK.

6. Other benefits

Businesses and individuals will be able to tell the government what is unclear, and the government will look to give a better picture of how copyright law works in practice.

7. Prioritisation criteria as of 1 July 2013

We will issue copyright notices in response to requests or on our own initiative.

We will have discretion whether to respond to a request for a notice.

Copyright notices are intended to set out general guidance; if the request is for guidance on a specific dispute or set of facts or will require evaluation of evidence, the requestor should seek his or her own legal advice or apply for mediation.

In deciding what guidance to give through copyright notices, we will take into account:

  • our available resources
  • within that constraint, as many of the prioritisation criteria set out below as we consider relevant

The fact that one of the criteria or one example of the factors relevant to one of the criteria is met in any particular case does not necessarily mean a notice will be issued.

Prioritisation criteria will be kept under review and this information will be reissued with any revised criteria.

Prioritisation criteria

(1.) Can the question(s) raised be answered by general guidance whose application is not restricted to individual right holders or users or to individual situations?

(2.) Is there a demonstrable need for a copyright notice on the question(s) raised evidenced by, for example, any one or more of the following:

a) the number of requests for guidance on the question(s)
b) the lack of existing guidance on the question(s) from the IPO or other body, eg other authoritative and impartial sources
c) the fact that the question(s) raised stem from the introduction of new technology raising novel issues

(3.) Is a copyright notice likely to have a significant impact because, for example, either or both of the following apply:

a) it will provide clarity on what can be done under existing copyright law in practical situations encountered by large numbers of right holders/users, eg teachers and students
b) clarity on the question(s) answered by the notice will facilitate innovation or reduce actions which copyright infringement

8. Published notices

  1. Digital images, photographs and the internet
  2. Assignment of copyright
  3. Performance of live music
  4. Knitting and sewing patterns
  5. Public exhibition of copyright works