In England and Wales, copyright law is primarily governed by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, as well as sound recordings, broadcasts, computer software and films.
The work must be fixed in a tangible form, and the protection is automatic upon creation (as opposed to, for example, a registered trade mark which requires a formal application to the Intellectual Property Office). The duration of copyright protection varies depending on the type of work. Generally, it lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. In the case of works created by more than one person, it lasts for the life of the last surviving author plus 70 years.
It is important to note that copyright protects the specific expression of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. This means – in relation to software copyright for example – that the protection covers the actual code and its arrangement, rather than the underlying functionality or ideas.
Copyright solicitors often provide legal advice and representation to individuals and businesses in cases involving copyright protection, licensing, and infringement.
Copyright solicitors – Our role
As mentioned above, copyright solicitors have a varied role, and provide a wide range of services, which often include the following:
- Intellectual property advice: Our team of intellectual property solicitors advise clients on how to best protect their intellectual property, including copyright. This may involve determining the appropriate steps to safeguard creative works and how to deal with legal issues related to ownership and rights.
- License agreements: Our copyright solicitors also help to draft, negotiate, and review licence agreements. These agreements detail the terms under which a copyright owner allows others to use their work. This could include licensing for reproduction, distribution, public performance, or other specific uses.
- Infringement dispute resolution: If someone violates or infringes copyright, a copyright solicitor can assist the copyright owner in taking legal action. This may involve sending cease and desist letters, negotiating settlements, or pursuing court litigation to prevent further infringement and recover damages.
- Litigation: Our team of copyright solicitors often represent clients in court when copyright disputes lead to litigation. This often involves both defending against infringement claims and asserting the rights of the copyright holder.
- Due diligence: In business transactions, such as mergers, acquisitions, or licensing deals, our copyright solicitors conduct due diligence to assess the intellectual property aspects of the transaction. Due diligence helps to ensure that our clients understand and mitigate any potential risks or liabilities related to copyright and similar intellectual property assets owned by the target company or business.
- Fair use analysis: We help clients understand and navigate the concept of fair use, which allows limited use of copyright material without the owner’s permission for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.
What is copyright infringement?
Copyright infringement occurs when someone violates the exclusive rights in relation to the copyright work which are granted to a copyright holder under copyright law.
These exclusive rights include the right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, and adapt the copyright work.
Copyright infringement can involve the unauthorised use, reproduction, distribution, or adaptation of copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner.
Copyright infringement can occur across borders, and international copyright treaties and agreements help to facilitate the protection of copyright works globally.
Copyright solicitors can be a valuable asset when attempting to resolve copyright disputes.
With the assistance of a copyright lawyer, copyright owners often issue cease and desist letters to alleged infringers, demanding that they stop the infringing activities.
If a dispute cannot be resolved using alternative dispute resolution methods, court action may be required.
Copyright holders have legal remedies available to address infringement. These may include seeking injunctive relief to stop ongoing infringement, claiming damages for economic harm caused by the infringement, or pursuing statutory damages as provided by copyright law.
Defending copyright infringement claims
In copyright disputes, there are several defences that individuals or entities accused of copyright infringement may use to counter the claims of the copyright holder. These include:
- Fair use: Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows the use of copyright material without permission for specific purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. The determination of fair use involves a case-by-case analysis of factors such as the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyright work, the amount used, and the effect of that usage on the market for the original work.
- License or permission: If the accused party has obtained a valid licence or permission (even if the licence or permission was granted verbally) from the copyright holder to use the copyright material in the manner alleged, it can be a complete defence to an infringement claim. The terms and conditions of the licence or permission will be crucial in determining the validity of this defence.
- Public domain: If the allegedly infringing material is in the public domain, meaning it is not protected by copyright and is free for public use, this can serve as a complete defence. Works may enter the public domain due to expiration of copyright, dedication by the copyright owner, or failure to meet the necessary requirements for protection.
- Independent creation: If the accused party can demonstrate that they independently created the allegedly infringing work without copying the work from the copyright material, it may be a defence. This defence is based on the principle that copyright protection only extends to original works of authorship.
- Lack of originality: Copyright protection requires that a work be original. If the allegedly infringing work lacks originality and does not qualify for copyright protection, this may be the basis of a successful defence.
- Statute of limitations: Copyright infringement claims are subject to a statute of limitations, meaning that legal action must be taken within a specified time frame following the alleged infringement. If the claim is brought after the expiration of the statute of limitations, it may be time barred.
How can South Bank Legal assist?
The copyright infringement solicitors at South Bank Legal handle a broad range of disputes involving copyright, registered trade marks and unregistered trade marks.
Our specialist copyright solicitors can help you protect the reputation of your business and your brand. They can provide timely and cost effective expert legal advice regarding copyright infringement and how you should proceed with your case in order to come to a successful conclusion.
We have represented a wide range of clients in the UK and abroad, from single individuals to large companies in complex copyright infringement claims.
If you are the holder of copyright and suspect that your rights have been infringed, or if you have received a letter alleging copyright infringement by you or your business, please get in touch with South Bank Legal for a confidential discussion.
Our law firm offers a range of legal services, and we can be contacted using the form below, or via telephone at 02035765179.
Get in touch today