Copyright protects the original expression of ideas (e.g. in words and illustrations). The following are examples of what is protected under copyright law in Singapore:

  • Literary works (e.g. written works, advertising and promotional material, source codes for computer programs)
  • Dramatic works (e.g. scripts, films, television and radio programmes)
  • Musical works (e.g. melodies, sound recordings, sheet music)
  • Artistic works (e.g. photographs and paintings)

Copyright does not protect the following:

  • Ideas, concepts or data
  • Methods of operation
  • Systems or procedures

Protection and Term

In Singapore, copyright protection is automatic as soon as the author creates his work in a tangible form. There is no need to file for registration to get copyright protection.

A copyright work created by a Singapore citizen or resident is protected in many countries overseas by virtue of international agreements, for example, the Berne Agreement. For a list of counties where the work of a Singapore citizen or resident would be protected, please see

The terms of copyright protection varies according to the type of copyrighted work:

  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works: 70 years from the end of the year in which the author died.
  • Published editions of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works: 25 years from the end of the year in which the edition was first published.
  • Sound recordings and films: 70 years from the end of the year in which the sound recording or film was first published.
  • Broadcasts and cable programmes: 50 years from the end of the year of making the broadcast or cable programme.
  • Performances: 70 years from the end of the year of the performance.

Ownership Rights

The author of a copyright work enjoys exclusive rights to reproduce, publish, perform the work in public, communicate the work to the public (for e.g. through broadcasting or through the internet) and make an adaption of the work.

It is advisable to assert copyright through the symbol ©, for example “© Ravindran Associates 2013”.

There are exceptions to the rule that the person who creates the work owns the copyright, for example:

  • Employment: If the work is created by an employee pursuant to the terms of his employment, the employer owns the copyright in the work.
  • Commissioning: In general, the commissioned party retains the copyright in the work. It is advisable that the commissioning party obtains an assignment of rights from the commissioned party for the commissioned work.

Seeking Permission

If you wish to use copyrighted material, you have to seek consent from the copyright owner. We can assist you in seeking consent from the copyright owner and/or if necessary, obtaining a licence through a collective management organisation.


If no consent has been obtained from the copyright owner to use the copyrighted material, infringement of copyright occurs.

The copyrighted work need not have been wholly reproduced for there to be copyright infringement. It is an infringement as long as a substantial amount of the original work has been copied. In deciding what is substantial, the court will look at the nature of the portion that has been copied (i.e. whether it constitutes the primary part or essence of the copyrighted work).