What is copyright and how to avoid copyright infringement
Copyright protects the expression of ideas in tangible forms. In Singapore, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act. The aim of copyright is to encourage the production and dissemination of new work by authors, musicians, film makers, performers, photographers, broadcasters and other content creators by awarding them the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, perform, communicate or adapt their work.
Generally, for the work which is created by an employee during the course of his or her employment, the copyright belongs to the employer. In the case of an employee who writes for a publication such as a newspaper or magazine however, the employer would have a limited copyright ownership and the employee retains the right to publish the work elsewhere.
The duration of copyright protection varies according to the type of work. In Singapore, the copyright for literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works generally lasts for 70 years after the author’s death. After copyright ends, the work passes into public domain. This means that anyone can use and adapt the work without requiring permission from the copyright owner.1
Copyright protects the following types of materials:
Literary works (e.g. books, poems, song lyrics)
Dramatic works (e.g. film scripts, choreography)
Musical works (e.g. melodies)
Artistic works (e.g. paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, photographs)
Sound recordings (e.g. podcasts, music)
Films (e.g. movies, videos)
Television and radio broadcasts
Performances (e.g. performances by musicians, singers, and comedians)2
Copyright infringement is when someone uses or makes a copy of the copyright owner’s work without his or her consent. An example of copyright infringement is when a performance in Singapore is recorded without the copyright owner’s permission and copies of the recording are distributed for sale either locally or overseas.
Depending on the situation, there are a few options to resolve copyright infringement, such as negotiation, mediation or taking legal action.
Exceptions to copyright infringement
Part 5 of the Copyright Act 2021 details the permitted uses of copyrighted works and protected performances. In these cases, the act is not an infringement of any copyright in the work. Under the ‘Fair Use’ exemption for instance, the courts will take the following areas into consideration when deciding if the exemption is applicable:
the purpose and character of the use (commercial or non-profit)
the nature of the work or performance
the amount of copyrighted work used in relation to the entire work or performance
the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the work or performance
It is best to seek legal counsel for any queries on copyright matters, to ensure that your own work is protected or to check that you have not inadvertently infringed on the copyright of someone else.
Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. “Copyright”. Accessed 22 February 2022, https://www.ipos.gov.sg/about-ip/copyright
Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. “Factsheet on Copyright Act 2021”. Published 19 November 2021, https://www.ipos.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resources-library/copyright/copyright-act-factsheet.pdf
Intellectual Property Office of Singapore. “Infringement and enforcement”. Accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.ipos.gov.sg/about-ip/copyright/infringement-enforcement
Singapore Legal Advice. “Copyright infringement in Singapore: Suing the infringer and more”. Last updated 22 November 2021, https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/copyright-infringement-singapore-suing-infringer/
Singapore Legal Advice. “Copyright law in Singapore: Your rights and what it protects”. Last updated 22 November 2021, https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/copyright-law-in-singapore/
Singapore Legal Advice. “Copyright protection and infringement outside of Singapore”. Last updated 29 November 2021, https://singaporelegaladvice.com/law-articles/copyright-protection-infringement-outside-singapore/
Singapore Statutes Online. “Copyright Act 2021: Part 5 Permitted uses of copyright works and protected performances”. Accessed 2 May 2022, https://sso.agc.gov.sg/Act/CA2021?ProvIds=P15-#P15-