Copyright Infringement In The UK

Primary & secondary infringement


Issues of copyright infringement are becoming ever more apparent in today’s fast paced society, where businesses seek to gain a monopoly in areas of commercial importance. With global giants such as Apple finding themselves at the end of a copyright dispute, it is little wonder that individuals and companies are becoming more and more cautious of copyright laws. Surprisingly, in the UK there is no registry/registration for copyright. Instead, creators of original literary work (dramatic, musical and artistic work including illustrations and photograph), and original non-literary work (software, web content and databases) automatically assume a status of copyright protection.

If you are the creator of an original piece of work and believe that someone has infringed your copyright, then you should be aware that there are two levels of infringement; primary infringement and secondary infringement. Primary infringement is a strict liability offence; this means that no knowledge or intention needs to be proven. An individual will be guilty of primary copyright infringement if they:

- Copy a piece of copyrighted work.

- Issue copies of the copyrighted work to the public.

- Rent or lend the copyrighted work to the public.

- Communicate the work to the public in any way.

- Make an adaptation of a copyright work or do any of the acts listed above in relation to an adaptation.

Secondary infringement requires the individual to have a certain specified knowledge or reasonable grounds for having such knowledge at the time of the offence. A secondary copyright infringement includes acts of:

- Importing the copyrighted subject into the UK, other than for the importer’s private and domestic use.

- Through the course of a business, possessing, exhibiting in public or distributing the copyrighted work.

- Selling, letting for hire, or offering or exposing the work for sale or hire.

This means that if you suspect an individual has carried out one of the offences listed above, you may not need to show an intention (primary infringement). As previously mentioned, there is no register for copyrighted works in the UK, however, some choose to display a © followed by their name, and year of creation. This inclusion of the copyright symbol may assist with enforcement of copyright works under the Universal Copyright Convention.

As with most law, there will usually be a time limitation in which a claimant may bring a claim. Copyright infringement is no exception, however, as there is no register for copyrighted works. Instead, there are differing time limitations for which the assumed copyrighted protection remains valid. For any written, dramatic, musical or artistic piece of work, the limitation is 70 years after the author’s death. For sound and musical recordings, it is 70 years from the date of its first publication. For any copyrighted films, the limitation period is 70 years after the death of the director, screenplay, author or composer. For any broadcasts, the time for which a copyright remains valid is 50 years from its first broadcast.

If you are the owner of an original piece of copyright work and you wish to allow others to use your work, then you may license the use of the copyrighted work. If you wish to simply sell or transfer the copyright, then this is also a viable option. In order to successfully transfer a copyrighted work, you must write and sign an assignment which will show a sale or a transfer of the said work. Ultimately, copyright works can also be transferred via inheritance meaning through a Will.

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