Copyright protects the corporeal expression of ideas. As soon as an idea is given physical form, e.g. a piece of writing, a photograph, a film, a web page, music it is protected by copyright. There is no need for registration or to maintain copyright in some way, protection is automatic at the point of creation. Both published and unpublished works are sheltered by copyright. Copyright is in general owned by the creator(s) of the work, e.g. an novelist, composer, artist, photographer etc. If the work is shaped in the course of a person's employment, then the copyright holder is usually the employer.
Copyright is a belongings right and can be sold or transferred to others. Authors of articles in academic journals, for example, frequently relocate the copyright in those articles to the journal's publisher. It is important not to bewilder ownership of a work with ownership of the copyright in it: a person may have acquired an unique copyright work, e.g. a painting, letter or photograph, but unless the copyright in it has particularly also been transferred, it will remain with the creator.
Copyright is keeping pace by law, the main decree in the UK being the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). This was amended in October 2003 by the Copyright and associated Rights Regulations 2003 which incorporated into UK law the changes required by the EU Copyright Directive. Copyright protection is automatic. The act of creating the work also creates the Copyright. There is no obligation to register for Copyright, although in the US and most other countries it is significant to show (assert) that copyright is claimed in a scrupulous work. This is easily enough done by obviously marking any innovative work with the representation followed by the date from which copyright is claimed and the owner of the copyright.