If you create something using your own skill, not copying it - you own the copyright.
Copyright is an automatic, free right, but it can only protect what is recorded on paper, digitally or in materials (e.g. a sculpture, a photograph, a pitch document). Software, computer programmes, databases and the content of a website are also protected by copyright.
If you have an idea for a film, let’s say, and you tell someone about it only to discover later that they have then developed a film based on your idea, you cannot go after them for infringement. However if you showed them a script or a printed synopsis, and you then discover that they whipped your idea, provided you can prove you had created the script first, had shown it to them, and they had copied your script, then you do have grounds for copyright infringement.
Just like you can buy and sell anything else you own, you can buy, sell or licence whatever you originate and own the copyright to.
If you want to show you are the owner of a work, mark it with the copyright symbol
, add your name and the date. You could lodge a copy of this with your bank, post it to yourself/your solicitor without opening it so the date stamp is proof of when it was created.
The protection afforded by copyright law means that no-one, except you can copy a substantial part, distribute copies whether for free, rent or sale, perform, adapt or put your work on the internet - without your permission.
If you create a copyright work, the moral rights are yours too, meaning you have the right to be identified as the author/creator and the ability to object to how something is being performed, represented or changed.
If you think someone is using your copyright without your permission or in a defamatory way, you can challenge them. Sending them a warning or an initial letter from a solicitor is one of the first step most copywriter owners would take. And there is also a Copyright Tribunal run by the Government’s Intellectual Property Office to which collecting societies can apply if they look after your copyright.