You, the author or creator of a copyright work will usually become the first owner of the copyright in the work, unless you were in employment under a contract of service or apprenticeship, in which case your employer becomes the owner. (But see further below “Who owns Copyright”.)
Copyright can be assigned (ie transferred) or licensed, but an assignment and an exclusive licence have to be in writing.
How does copyright protect you?
Copyright arises automatically when a work is made, in all Berne Convention countries.
Copyright protection affords you, the copyright owner the right, generally speaking, to prevent others from making a reproduction (or copy) of the copyright work, from publishing the work, and, in some instances, from offering it for hire by way of trade. A person who carries out any of these acts without your authority commits an act of direct infringement of your copyright in the work. To constitute a direct infringement of copyright, actual copying must have taken place, and the reproduction must be substantially similar to the original work.
The protection afforded you also extends to so-called acts of indirect infringement, which will occur where a person deals in certain ways with copies of a copyright work, knowing that they are infringing copies. These ways include importing, selling or dealing in the infringing copies or acquiring a computer program.
Copyright law protects the reputation and identity of the author, by giving a right of action against distortion or mutilation of the work in a way which is to the detriment of the honour or reputation of the author. This applies, even if the ownership of the copyright resides in another person or company. This protection of the author can not be taken from him or her.
Courtesy of the SABS