Copyright and all that jazz

Wilson Browne

1st July 2018

Legal Briefing

By David Farmer

Wilson Browne Solicitors

IN writing this article I would like to think that I own the copyright on it. It is an original piece of work which is entirely my own idea and has been written without any input from any third parties. However, as I will explore in this article, this is an assumption that is not necessarily correct.

I have noticed an increase in enquires from businesses that have had problems with copyright issues over the last few months. There is no doubt in my mind that the ease that photographs can be published on social media and web pages is a contribution to this.

Copyright in the UK is governed out by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. The work must be original and can be either a literary, dramatic musical or artistic work. In terms of this article it would be classified as a literary work.

A piece of architecture such as a building or carpentry work would fall under the definition of an artistic work, as would a photograph. I would recommend great care should be taken when displaying photographs that have not be taken by yourself and advise that before you do publish any you have permission to use the photograph. If you want to be safe make sure that you use photographs from organisations such as Creative Commons that have a body of work that is available for free and legal sharing.

I mentioned at the start of this article that I owned the copyright in this article and the general rule of copyright is that the author will be the first owner. There are, however, crucial exceptions to this rule. One of these is that as I am writing this article in the course of my employment and so the first owner of the copyright would not be me but my employer. Therefore the owner of the copyright in this article would be Wilson Browne Solicitors.

But what would have happened if I had been self-employed and I had been asked to write this article for a third party and had been paid to do this? I would own the copyright and it would only be if I had agreed to assign the copyright to the third party that copyright would pass to it.

A good example of this in a commercial context was when Dr Martens asked an advertising agency to design a logo for it but had not obtained an assignment of copyright. This resulted in a legal case that went all the way to the Court of Appeal and although the court eventually found in favour of Dr Martens, the problem could have been avoided if an agreement had been signed by both parties when the work was first commissioned.

This is a complex area of law and this article only scratches the surface. However if you have any questions in relation to copyright or are concerned that another party may be using your work without permission then please do not hesitate to contact our Specialist Team on 0800 088 6004.

Wilson Browne