Offences of online copyright infringement are currently punishable by a maximum of two years’ imprisonment, whereas the maximum custodial sentence for infringement in respect of physical goods is ten years.
In July 2015 the government opened a consultation asking whether the maximum custodial sentence available for online and offline copyright infringement of equal seriousness should be brought into line at ten years?
The government has just published the responses to the consultation. It received 1,032 responses, with an overwhelming 1,011 opposing the proposal and only 21 supporting. The government states that it is now carefully considering the best way forward.
The Court of Appeal has upheld the High Court’s decision on an agreement that purported to assign the copyright in songs written by Bob Marley from his record company at the time, Cayman Music Inc (Cayman), to Island Logic.
Marley had misattributed 13 songs (including the hit No Woman No Cry) to other artists as a way of preventing the relevant copyright and royalties from going to his record company under a recording agreement. The key question before the court was whether the songs were included within the agreement.
The High Court held that the songs were “compositions” within the terms of the agreement, so that the rights in the songs were transferred under that agreement, even though the agreement did not expressly refer to the songs. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision.
The case shows how important it is to draft contracts precisely, particularly in the context of a complex set of background facts.
The Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) has rejected a claim for copyright infringement and passing off by the owners of a jewellery business, finding that the acts complained of were within the scope of the implied licence granted to the defendants during joint venture negotiations.
It was agreed by the claimants and defendants that, when the parties began negotiations in late 2008, the claimants had goodwill in their business associated with their name “Hidden Jem” and a logo.
During 2009 preparations for the joint venture progressed between the parties and IPEC found that the claimants had granted the defendants a licence to use the “Hidden Gem” trade name, the logo and a particular photograph for any purpose which they might reasonably consider to be for the advancement of the joint enterprise.
Although the claimant’s trust in and friendship with the defendants later diminished, this could not retrospectively affect the nature of the licence. IPEC considered that the licence persisted until April 2010 when the claimants sent a letter of claim to the defendants.
The government is consulting on increasing the maximum custodial sentence for online copyright infringement to ten years (in line with physical copyright infringement).
This was first recommended in 2006 and is supported by the current government following recommendations by the Intellectual Property Office in March this year.
The government considers that on-line infringement has become more significant and that there is no good reason for treating online infringement any differently to physical infringement, particularly given that there are links between online infringement and other criminal behaviour.
The consultation closes on 17 August 2015.
A claim has been brought in the UK’s High Court by US citizens who had been named on the defendant’s Register of Known Spam Offenders. The register had been available on its website for a period of over five months and the claimants were also at the top of the defendant’s list, on the same website, of the top 10 world’s worst spammers.
The defendant made an application to the court asking it to strike out claims for libel, copyright infringement and misuse of private information as an abuse of process.
Bearing in mind that it is a drastic action for a court to strike out a claim if it has at least arguable merit, it is not surprising that the court dismissed the application. The court found that the claimants had a real prospect of establishing that those within the country, who read and were likely to have believed the words complained of, included people whose opinion was important to the claimants and their business prospects.