This guide is created for information only and does not substitute legal advice. Last updated in May 2023.
This guide was co-created by Kimmy, Debby and Afida.
Copyright is a collection of rights automatically granted to someone who creates an original work like a text book, a song, a movie, a game, or an app. The copyright owner is granted exclusive rights to reproduce, publish, perform, communicate, and adapt their work.
These rights are granted even if the copyright symbol © does not appear on the work.
(Adapted from the definition by the Copyright Alliance and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore)
Copyright Factsheet on Copyright Act 2021 from the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) summarises the key changes in the new Act.
Copyright protects the expression of ideas in tangible form. In Singapore, an author automatically enjoys copyright protection as soon as they create and express their work in a tangible form. No registration is required to get copyright protection.
The following are protected by copyright law:
Content creators are the default copyright owners. However, the content creator can sign an agreement giving another party the copyright.
For instance, the author may transfer their rights to a publisher as a condition of publication - in which case the publisher owns the copyright of that work. For example, many journal publishers hold the copyright to the articles they publish.
In general, the copyright protection periods in Singapore are as follows:
Source: IPOS Copyright Fact Sheet
Works in the public domain can be freely used, adapted, and built on by everyone without obtaining permission. The following are a few types of work in the public domain:
Please note that the issue of public domain is not always clear-cut. For example, George Romero's cult film classic, The Night of the Living Dead, is in the public domain but the music from the film is not.
Moral rights are a set of non-transferrable rights that are normally included within the bundle of rights under copyright. These rights exist to protect the creator for ethical reasons. There are three types of moral rights:
Performers and authors of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works have the right to be identified whenever their work or performance is used. This is known as the Right of Attribution and it lasts for the duration of the copyright protection period. The moral right of attribution requires, at the very least, that the author be named.
Intellectual Property (IP) is made up of Copyright and Industrial Property.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP)
- the legal rights given to a person over their creations, and divided into 2 main areas:
Types of Intellectual Property:
|Copyright||Industry Designs||Patent||Trademark||Trade Secrets||Geographical Indications|
|Protection||Copyright only protects way in which ideas are expressed. Copyright subsists in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works||It protects the external appearance of the article or non-physical product.||Patent protects inventions. The invention has to be applied to a product or process.||A trademark protects the specific, unique name, logo, and symbols pertaining to your products or business brand.||It protects confidential information. Examples of information that may be protected by trade secrets: manufacturing processes, experimental research data, software algorithm, formulas, recipes source codes etc||Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products. It protects your product from a particular territory.|
|Registration||Not required. Copyright arises immediately upon creation without registration required.||Required, register through IPOS||
Required, obtain through IPOS or international application.
|Required, obtain through IPOS or international application.||Not required.||Required, register through IPOS.|
|Duration of Protection||
- Literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic works, photographs: 70 years after the author’s death
- Films and anonymous or pseudonymous works : 70 years after the making of the work
|5 years from the date of filing. Thereafter, the registration is to be renewed every 5 years, up to 15 years.||20 years from the date of filing||10 years from the date of filing. Renewable upon expiry.||Not limited in time. It may continue indefinitely as long as the secret is not revealed to the public||10 years from the date of registration. The registration may be renewed upon expiry every 10 years.|
|Transferring ownership/rights||It can be assigned or licensed.||It can be assigned, licensed or mortgaged.||It can be assigned, mortgaged or licensed.||It can be licensed or assigned.||It can be licensed or assigned.||It can't be assigned or licensed to someone outside that place or not belonging to the group of authorized producers.|
|Remark||Click here for the business and practical consideration for Trade Secret.|
With more and more collaborations among academics and business organisations, there is a growing interest in the transfer of technology to industry. Click here for the introduction to Technology Licensing and tips on successful license negotiations.
Royalty Free is not the same as Copyright Free.