Copyright is the term used to describe a number of legal rights that exist in original literary, musical, dramatic or artistic works, and in sound recordings, films, broadcasts and other creative works. Under copyright laws, these rights are exclusive to the copyright owner, and enable the copyright owner to control how their work is used and to prevent unauthorized use.
Originally, copyright laws allowed the creator of a work to prevent that work from being copied, but copyright laws have gradually been extended over time, and now allow copyright owners to prevent and control things like adaptation or public performance of the copyrighted work, inclusion of the work in a broadcast, or distribution of the work both physically and on the Internet. Because these rights are exclusive to the copyright owner, anyone wanting to do any of these things needs the permission of the copyright owner.
Copyright can exist in all sorts of things - for example, music, lyrics, photographs, artwork, books, speeches, TV programs and movies. Also, what might appear to be a single work can include several different copyrights owned by various different people. For example, a music track by a signed artist will often include separate copyrights in the composition, the lyrics, and the sound recording. Copyright in the music and lyrics will usually be owned by the artist or music publishing company, and copyright in the sound recording will usually be owned by the artist's record label. Use of that track, including any adaptation of the track or any uploading or sharing over the Internet, will require the permission of all of these copyright owners, either directly or through their representatives (for example, through a collecting society or performing rights organization).