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What is copyright infringement and how can I prevent it?

View profile for Jade Fairhurst
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What is copyright infringement and how can I prevent it?

Copyright is an intellectual property (IP) right that occurs automatically upon creation of a particular type of work. It protects the copyright owner (or the author), from others copying or reproducing their work.

What works are subject to copyright protection?

Copyright protection is automatically afforded when you create:

  • Original literary works, dramatic, musical and artistic works
  • Original non-literary written work, including software, web content and databases
  • Film, television, sound and music recordings
  • Broadcasts
  • Layout of published written, dramatic and musical works

For the works to be afforded copyright protection, the work must be original, meaning it needs to be created by the author and not adapted or copied from another work. The author will need to demonstrate that they have used some skill or judgement in the works creation.

So, for example, if an individual creates a database for storage of information, and can show that the database was created from their own original design and idea, then the database would be copyrighted.

How do I get my work copyrighted?

You do not have to apply to have your work copyrighted, nor do you have to pay an expensive fee to have your work registered. It is a common misconception that a fee must be paid to have your work copyrighted, when in fact, the right arises automatically from the moment your work is created.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement, or sometimes referred to as a “breach of copyright”, is when a person (or sometimes a company) carries out a prohibited act in regards to a substantial part of the protected work without the authorisation or consent of the copyright owner. There are two forms of copyright infringement, primary and secondary infringement.

The prohibited acts relating to primary infringement can be summarised as follows:

  • Copy the work
  • Issuing copies of the work to the public
  • Broadcasting the work to the public
  • Performing or showing the work to the public
  • Communicating the work to the public

Interestingly, the work does not need to be copied in whole; only a “substantive” part of the work needs to be copied to demonstrate infringement has occurred. The court will look subjectively at what constitutes a “substantive” part of the work, and this has been held to differ vastly in cases.

Secondary infringement is where infringing copies are “dealt” with by a third party. For example:

  • Importing an infringing copy
  • Possessing an infringing copy
  • Providing the means for production of infringing copies

How do I stop my work being infringed?

It is illegal for individuals or companies to infringe your rights. Authors are responsible for defending their copyrighted materials from infringement, however this is sometime easier said than done.

If you think your copyrighted work has been infringed, then you can look to form an agreement with the infringing party to cease their use of your works. Alternatively, you could consider licencing your work to the infringer, or even mediating with them to find an amicable resolution to the dispute.

Sometimes though, it is not always as straight forward and legal proceedings may be necessary. The civil courts have the power to award the following remedies to an innocent party in actions for copyright infringement:

  • An injunction to prevent further infringement
  • Damages where loss can be demonstrated by the innocent party
  • Account of profits
  • An order for delivery up of all infringing articles

If you have any issues with someone else copying or using your designs or work, our commercial litigation team can help you in protecting your rights. We always look to find a solution quickly and with the least possible disruption to your work or business. Call our specialist team today on 0161 696 6170