Copyright: Are You Unknowingly Infringing Someone Else ’s Work?

When it comes to copyright, many people are unaware of how extensive the law is and how easy it is to infringe. Infringement of copyright, whether intentional or by accident, is the infringement of the economic rights of the owner ...

There are two types of infringement, the first being Primary Infringement. This means that there is no license from the copyright owner and you either reproduce, use or distribute a copyrighted work.

Some interesting points include:

- You do not need to have knowledge of doing so.
- As copyright is a territory limited right, the act must occur within the UK although the authorisation of such an act may occur out of the UK.
- There must be a causal connection or copying of the work such as directly (burning a CD onto your computer) or indirectly (copying drawings by copying an article that had been manufactured to those drawings).
- Independently creating the same or similar work will not amount to infringement. However, for infringement to occur, it must be shown that the work was copied or derived from the copyrighted work. It's important to know that it has been shown that infringement may even be possible where there was a subconscious influence.
- The act must be done in relation to the whole or substantial part of the work. What constitutes a substantial part is difficult to predict, but the courts will look at the copied version of the copyrighted work as a whole. Do note that it is necessary to consider the cumulative effect of what has been reproduced, and a big determining factor will be originality.

Secondary infringement happens when a person facilitates a Primary Infringement activity or deals with infringing copies of a work and they are aware they are doing it.

If a person facilitates Primary Infringement activities, or deals in infringing copies of a work, they will be in breach of copyright law when:

- They permitted a place of public entertainment to be used for infringing performances. They are liable unless there are reasonable grounds for believing the performance would not infringe copyright (pub landlords are often caught out here if they play music without a public performance license).
- They supplied an apparatus by which an infringing public performance occurs. They are liable where they knew or had reason to believe it would be used for copyright infringement purposes (DJ equipment hire companies often get into trouble with this).
- They are processing, selling, hiring, commercially dealing with or prejudicially distributing a work they know or have reason to believe infringes copyright (remember bootlegged cassettes and VHS videos?).

There are, however, several exceptions that will allow these acts and will not amount to either a Primary or Secondary Infringement and that will be the subject of our next blog post.