Writing the Copyright…

Well done to all those who raised money for Children in Need. Obviously the total is still going up, but as it currently stands it is £32 million. What an amazing figure!!! Also, Band Aid 30??? It’s all going down this weekend!

I bet you’ve thought, probably on more than one occasion, “that’s a great idea, I think I might copyright it”. If you’ve paid any attention at all to anything I’ve blogged about in the past few weeks then you should realise that that statement is wrong. You can’t copyright an idea, if someone stole that idea then it could be breach of confidence, but not an infringement on copyright. Copyright is protecting something that already exists, that has already taken form, such as words on a page, such as a picture or music… But not the idea of it. I think I’ve drilled that point enough now… If I haven’t you can always re-read the paragraph!

In this country, being the UK, we do not have a registration system for copyright, unlike in the USA, for instance. All you really need to do is sign, date and (c) it, although this may be difficult to prove etc. The point behind copyright is to stop the unfair use of your work by others, to protect your work. Copyright forms part of Intellectual Property (IP) Law and thus as part of property law there are certain things you can do with your copyright. You have the ability to buy and sell copyright as well as license it (the equivalent of leasing). There are exclusive (having all the rights) and non-exclusive (having partial rights) licenses.

We are still running off the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 which has been amended and amended and amended some more due to the ever changing technological environment that we currently live in. However, due to all of these amendments things such as the internet are covered within this Act even though it was not around when this Act was made. Probably nearing the end of its rather over amended life it is currently being reviewed with the hope of a new Act being brought about in a couple of years time. A new Act would be ideal as it would bring together all of the amendments into one document, as opposed to continuously having to search to the end to see what the amendment is on a certain section. It would certainly make lawyers lives easier, if not anyone elses.

When dealing with copyright issues the courts have tended to look into the amount of skill and effort that has been put into a certain piece of work. A good example of where the judges may have been a little out of touch with the industry concerned can be seen in Exxon Corp. v Exxon Insurance Consultations International Ltd [1982]. The issue here was over the name, as you can see both companies had the same name. The Court of Appeal sort to look at the amount of effort and skill that was used in selecting a name. It was held that there is typically no copyright in the selection of a name. You may think this a little odd considering the amount of money publicists are paid, the marketing campaigns and so on which are all based around a name. If successful then you will forever associate that name with that company, even simple words such as Apple are now linked to huge companies. Perhaps the court was right in deciding that there is little skill or effort put into choosing a name, however the decision seems a little out of touch with the industry in which this case effects.

In Ladbroke (Football) Ltd v William Hill (Football) Ltd [1964] it was held that there must be a “requisite degree of skill, judgement and labour”, which they felt had been met through the football coupons. These are basically grids on football matches in which you have very little choice in how you layout the page, if the judges felt that there was a “requisite degree of skill, judgement and labour” involved in that then filling out tables in a specific order which you have no choice about is a skill we should all learn more about! This, however, contrasts to the earlier case of G A Cramp Sons Ltd v Frank Symthson Ltd [1944] where it was held that grids in the front of a diary did not have copyright… If you’re feeling a little confused by the judges contradictory judgments then you now know what it feels like to be a law student. Welcome to the club.

One case I should probably mention, just as it is a huge sore point for IP barristers is the case of Waterlow Directories Ltd v Reed information Systems Ltd [1992] FSR 409 where it was not argued that there is no copyright in a phone directory. Why would you agree with the opposition that there was copyright in a phone directory? Could you really, honestly say that there is copyright in a phone directory? Really? Apparently one not entirely with it barrister thought so.

And something to amuse you… Copyright Math. Our lecturer showed us this and I thought it was pretty great!

Until next time,



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