Briffa solicitors are highly regarded for copyright and intellectual property generally.

A movie, a song, computer software, a book, a painting, graffiti – at the heart of the intellectual property protection for all these things is copyright, which protects many types of creative work.

Copyright gives those who invest the skill and effort to create original work the right to prevent others from copying them. Copyright does not cover ideas and information but instead the form or manner in which they are expressed.

No need to register copyright?

Copyright arises automatically on creation and does not need to be specifically registered in the UK or Europe.

There is a common misapprehension that including the copyright symbol on an item has some legal significance. It doesn’t except to the extent that it puts the viewer or reader on notice that copyright is being asserted and usually by whom. To that extent, it is useful and worth including in most cases.

Copyright  confers a right on the owner to prevent others copying their work. It does not stifle independent creation of works.

The importance of keeping records of the creative process

  • In software include “footprints” (deliberate mistakes, algorithms etc.) which can uniquely identify you as the author.
  • Include watermarks or comments in electronic image files.
  • Keep as much of the background work as you can such as lyric sheets, music score, digital files, demo tapes and rough recordings.
  • Working documents, sketches and drafts.

A person infringes your copyright if they copy your work wholly or substantially.

What amounts to copying a substantial part of a work?

In some cases, copying is obvious, in many cases, and of course most that end up in court, the position is not so clear.

There is no hard and fast rule and the test is qualitative not quantative. This is where experienced legal advice ought to be taken at an early stage if there are concerns or you believe your copyright has been breached, Briffa have dealt with many cases involving this issue and can offer a useful early steer.

There are many well reported cases in the UK and worldwide – one recent example, in the music context, was the highly publicised disputes over the Blurred Lines song. Significant sums were/are at stake and so the case has run and run – you can read the most recent developments here. It offers a useful insight to how courts, including the English courts, might approach the issue of what is substantial copying.

Infringement can also occur indirectly where the author of a work copied the original through a re-creation of the original work.

BNS Patente und Marken GMBH (2014), a leading case in relation to jurisdiction. 

Copyright Infringement

Creating  something, whether musical, literary or visual, is often a labour of love and may involve many hours of time, effort or research.

To then find that someone is trying to benefit from your work is very aggravating and the temptation, completely understandably, is to want to take legal action and.

However, as with any kind of legal dispute, bearing in mind the costs and inherent risks, a cool head is needed. It is one thing having the law on your side, but with civil claims, even if you get a judgment, there is no guarantee a defendant can or will pay.

From the outset, the right questions should be asked such as :-

  1. Who is the opponent? – if a large business, on then one hand, they can pay, on the other hand, they have resources. If a small business or individual is then opponent, can or will they pay if they lose?
  2. What is the loss? – English law is based on proving loss, not punitive damages – if you can’t prove a clear loss based on the copyright breach, what’s the point of suing?
  3. Take action to protect brand – The financial damage caused by a breach of your IP rights may be significant or not. Sometimes, regardless of loss, clients take action to strategically protect their brand. Your brand is important and valuable. Taking enforcement action demonstrates that you will not tolerate your rights being infringed. it puts a marker down and sends a message to other potential infringers.

In relation to film copyright, leading cases in which the firm has acted include :-

Norowzian v Arks Limited & Guinness Brewing Worldwide Limited (1999, Court of Appeal) and Maltez v Lewis (1999, High Court). 

Recent copyright work

Music industry copyright – disputes as to copying of music and between artists and managers/publishers

Book Publishing – contracts and disputes

Computer games – publishing agreements/licenses. See case study relation to legal advice for game developers.

Artists – resale rights

Graphic designers – copying of designs

Employee copyright breach – a common scenario where former employees seek to set up in competition. See our case study here.

If you need industry recognised lawyers for any copyright legal advice, whether contracts, strategy, protection or an infringement or dispute, get in touch below or book a free meeting.

Related content
Click through to related pages

Music industry copyright


IP disputes


IP contracts and licences

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