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Copyright law in England and Wales

Copyright is one of the fundamental pillars of intellectual property rights. In England and Wales, copyright law provides legal protection to creators of original works. It ensures that their intellectual work is recognised and safeguarded.

ARC Costs have a network of copyright solicitors on hand to help you resolve copyright disputes. Moreover, we can assist with the recovery and negotiation of legal costs upon conclusion of these types of disagreements.

Copyright legislation

The primary legislation governing copyright in England and Wales is the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). This act outlines the scope of copyright protection, defines infringements, and specifies remedies. Key features include:

Protected works:

Copyright applies to literary, dramatic, musical original works to the public including the following:

  • Literary Works: Novels, essays, computer programs, and more.
  • Artistic Works: Paintings, sculptures, photographs, architectural drawings, etc.
  • Musical Works: Compositions including lyrics and melodies.
  • Dramatic Works: Dance, plays, screenplays, etc.
  • Films: Visual recordings with audio and video.
  • Sound Recordings: Recordings of music or spoken word. 

Automatic protection:

Copyright protection is granted automatically without requiring registration, provided the work is original and fixed in a tangible medium.

Duration of copyright:

  • Literary, artistic, musical, and dramatic works: Lifetime of the creator plus 70 years.
  • Films: 70 years after the death of the last principal creator (director, screenplay author, or composer).
  • Sound recordings: 70 years from the date of publication.

Moral rights:

  • Right of attribution (being credited for the work).
  • Right to object to derogatory treatment or distortion.
  • Right to prevent false attribution.

Exceptions and fair dealing:

  • Fair Dealing: Allows limited use of copyrighted material for research, criticism, review, or reporting current events.
  • Other exceptions include educational purposes, library archives, and certain non-commercial activities.

Copyright infringement

Infringement occurs when a person uses a copyrighted work without authorisation in ways reserved exclusively for the copyright holder, such as:

  • Copying: Reproducing or copying the work, wholly or partly.
  • Distribution: Selling or distributing unauthorised copies.
  • Adaptation: Creating derivative works like translations or modifications.
  • Public Performance: Playing music or showing films in public without a license.
  • Communication to the Public: Broadcasting, streaming, or sharing works online.

Remedies for infringement

Copyright owners may wish to take legal action and seek legal remedies when infringement is proven. Remedies for copyright infringement include:

  • Injunction: Court orders stopping further infringement.
  • Damages: Compensation for financial losses or estimated license fees.
  • Account of Profits: Disgorging profits gained through infringement.
  • Delivery Up and Destruction: Seizure and destruction of infringing copies.

The Role of copyright solicitors

Copyright disputes can be complex due to evolving technologies and intricate legal frameworks. A copyright solicitor is a legal professional specialising in copyright law who assists clients in protecting and enforcing their rights. Here’s how a solicitor can help:

Advising on copyright ownership and licensing:

  • A copyright lawyer can assist in determining who owns the copyright, especially in collaborative works.
  • Advising on licenses, assignments, and permissions, ensuring legal agreements are in place to avoid disputes.

Managing copyright registrations:

  • While copyright protection is automatic, copyright solicitors can help document ownership through voluntary registrations with collecting societies and relevant databases.

Infringement identification and pre-action steps:

  • Monitoring for potential infringement using specialised services.
  • Sending cease-and-desist letters to infringers, often preventing escalation to litigation.

Negotiating settlements:

  • Resolving disputes through negotiation or mediation to avoid lengthy and expensive litigation.

Litigation and Court Proceedings:

  • Representing clients in court if infringement is severe or negotiations fail.
  • Drafting court documents, presenting evidence, and arguing the case before judges.

Moral rights:

  • Assisting creators in enforcing their moral rights, like attribution and preventing derogatory treatment.

Strategic counselling:

  • Providing strategic advice to businesses on copyright compliance.
  • Advising on proactive measures, such as digital rights management or watermarking, to prevent unauthorised use.

International Issues:

  • Copyright solicitors help clients navigate international copyright issues when works are exploited in multiple jurisdictions.

Case study example

Consider a photographer whose portfolio is widely shared online without permission. The photographer approaches a copyright solicitor for assistance. Here’s a potential course of action:

  • Preliminary assessment: The solicitor reviews the photographer’s portfolio, identifying the original works and the nature of infringement.
  • Cease-and-Desist Letters: The solicitor sends letters to infringing websites, demanding the removal of unauthorised content and potential compensation.
  • Negotiation: If website operators respond positively, negotiations ensue, leading to compensation or licensing agreements.
  • Litigation: If negotiations fail or infringements continue, the solicitor files court proceedings to secure injunctions and damages.

How can ARC Costs assist?

Obtaining the right legal advice and representation is crucial in copyright disputes. Whilst ARC Costs can assist with the legal costs arising from a copyright dispute, we also maintain a network of specialist trade mark and copyright solicitors who would be happy to assist in your case.

ARC Costs are highly experienced in advising and assisting with costs issues and disputes in different areas of law. As Costs Draftsman and Costs Lawyers, we can assist in your costs issues.

If a costs award has been made, allowing you to recover costs from your opponent, we can assist with preparing a Bill of Costs on your behalf to ensure maximum recoverability. We can also assist in Costs Negotiations and represent you at detailed assessment proceedings. This can determine the amount of costs you may be able to recover.

If you have been ordered to pay costs to your opponent, we can assist in disputing costs which may be sought and which you may deem to be excessive and unreasonable. We can do this by way of preparation of  Points of Dispute and also through negotiations to ensure you will only pay for costs which are reasonably incurred and not exaggerated.

Should you wish to discuss your costs query with us, please contact us on 01204 397302 or via email at Alternatively, you can complete our online query form and we will contact you to discuss your query further. We can provide expert legal advice on costs in our free, no obligation initial consultation.

We may receive payments from third party solicitors on our panel to whom we may refer your claim. We will never charge you for any referrals made to our panel of third parties.


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01204 397302

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