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Copyright Basics


What is a copyright?
A copyright is the legal protection given in Singapore to original works of authorship. Copyrights protect books, scripts, paintings, photos, music, video and cinematographic works, software etc by preventing others from using the work without permission. To be protected, such works must be represented in a permanent form, such as a written document or a drawing.

Copyright is a bundle of rights
A copyright is a bundle of rights, including the exclusive right to distribute, sell, duplicate, publicly perform, and create derivative works from the work. The length of copyright protection for published literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works as well as photographs is 70 years. In the case of unpublished works, copyright subsists in the work until the expiration of 70 years from the year of first publication. Similarly, in the case of sound recordings and cinematograph films is 70 years. However, the copyright in cable programmes and television and sound broadcasts continues to subsist for only 50 years. The fact that a work is old doesn't necessarily mean that the copyright on it has expired. Until the end of the term of protection, a copyright owner has the right to sell, transfer, assign, or license one or all of these exclusive rights to someone else.

Copyright registrations and markings
In Singapore, you do not need to register a copyright in order to benefit from copyright protections. No particular formalities are required to be complied with in order to obtain protection under the Copyright Act (Cap 63). It is also not necessary to place a © on the copyrighted work, but it is a good idea to do so. The absence of a © does not however mean that it is legal to copy a work without permission.

Resale of copyrighted works
Under the copyright laws, the owner of a particular copy of a copyrighted work is generally entitled to resell the particular copy owned. For example, if you purchase a copy of a DVD movie, you are allowed to resell that particular DVD. Copyright protection prevents you from copying the DVD movie and reselling the copies. If you have licensed the right to use a particular copyrighted item, you should review the licence and consult with your lawyers to determine whether you can resell the item.

Selling versus giving away an item
Copyright protection includes the exclusive right to distribute the copyrighted work. This usually means that giving away an unauthorised copy of a copyrighted work (for example a duplicated copy of a videocassette) is not permitted. Thus, selling a pencil for $5.00, and including for "free" an unauthorised DVD copy would probably be against the law.

The Berne Convention

The Berne Convention itself is not Singapore law and does not excuse activity which otherwise would violate Singapore copyright law. The Berne Convention is an international treaty to which Singapore is a party, and accordingly, Singapore is committed to making certain changes to its copyright law.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any doubts about whether you can sell an item on eBay, we encourage you to contact the copyright owner or consult your own lawyers.

Violations of this policy may result in a range of actions, including:

  • Listing cancellation

  • Loss of eBay fees

  • Limits placed on account privileges

  • Account suspension

Sellers would violate a copyright protection and the law by doing any of the following:

  • ‘Burning’ copies of a DVD movie and reselling the copies (unless the seller owns the copyright)

  • Photocopying a book and reselling the copies (unless the seller owns the copyright)

  • Altering and reselling a copyrighted painting or photograph

For more information on copyrights, see any of the following sources:

eBay urges its sellers and buyers to comply with all governmental laws and regulations. The unauthorised sale of copyrighted items is illegal, as well as being against eBay policy. Sellers who are unsure of the legality of their items should not sell these items on eBay. This policy helps protect buyers from purchasing counterfeit and unauthorised merchandise, and helps intellectual property rights owners protect their rights.

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