Government made to tune in over copyright law

12th April 2016

Two recent stories illustrate just how copyright laws can adversely affect organisations – no matter however powerful – or famous they may be.

The UK government was called to task this week over its ‘misunderstanding’ regarding the copyright of a photograph which has been used in its forthcoming pro-EU leaflet.

The photograph of the Port of Felixstowe, taken by Euro-sceptic Mike Page, featured in the government’s £9.3m leaflet which highlights why the UK should remain in the European Union. However Mr Page had not given permission and was understandably unhappy with its use in the leaflet. The photographer eventually accepted a donation to charity in recompense for its unauthorised use.

“This case highlights just how careful organisations have to be when dealing with the intellectual property rights of others.” explains David Bayliss, an Associate in the commercial team at Higgs & Sons who regularly advises on such issues.

“Anyone using a photograph or a digitally created image has to be sure they have gained the permission of the owner or a right to use the image, whether by way of an agreed payment or other contractual arrangement.”

A second news article illustrates that passage of time is also not a barrier when it comes to pursuing a potential copyright infringement claim:

Led Zeppelin founders Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are being taken to court this week over a potential copyright infringement action regarding their seminal song, Stairway to Heaven.

A Los Angeles district judge said there were enough similarities between the song and an instrumental by the band Spirit to let a jury decide.

Stairway to Heaven, released in 1971, is often regarded as one of the greatest rock compositions of all time; however Michael Skidmore, a trustee for the late Spirit guitarist Randy Wolfe, who played on the same bill as Led Zeppelin in the 1960s, is claiming that the famous song is based on a Spirit track entitled Taurus. In bringing the case to court, US district judge Gary Klausner said that said a jury could find "substantial" similarity between the first two minutes of Stairway and Taurus.

“If proven, this shows how copyright law can be used to protect those who feel they may have been taken advantage of by organisations or individuals who are bigger and more powerful.” continues David. “If a person or company has invested their time and creative energy into developing something unique, then it should be protected in law – no matter who is seeking to take advantage or indeed how much time has passed.

“Anyone who is unsure about their rights or responsibilities regarding copyright law or intellectual property rights generally should seek advice from an expert at the earliest opportunity,” concludes David.

For more information, please contact David Bayliss at david.bayliss@higgsandsons.co.uk, or call 0345 111 5050.


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