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4 Reasons 4 Copyright
Copyright exists automatically in original creative works without the need of official registration. It grants authors moral and economic rights, including lengthy protection from unauthorised copying and use.
All organisations are likely to have some copyright-protected works. Copyright protects a broad range of creations, including books, articles, brochures, advertisements, music compositions, films, original pictures, drawings, architecture, maps, databases and software programmes. It prevents the unlawful use of a work, enhances reputation for creativity, provides a platform for collaborations and improves access to finance.
Awareness of copyright is also essential to legitimately use or exploit the creations of others with the authorisation of the right holder.
4iP Council has developed this interactive guide in cooperation with eminent academics and experts to share best practice and deepen understanding of the value of copyright. In particular, we would like to thank the following organisations for their valuable insights, engagement and support.
Until 2019, the band “The Verve” forfeited all its songwriting royalties and publishing rights to ABKCO due to plagiarism of a portion of a symphonic version of the ‘Rolling Stones’ song “The Last Time”. Read more here.
Copyright works such as original music, films, art, books amongst others are regularly commercialised allowing copyright owners to gain a competitive edge against their competitors. However, a less known area from which copyright owners can also gain a competitive edge include aspects of design, such as fabric patterns used in upholstery and furnishing, which can be protected by copyright. For example, Abraham Moon, a woollen mill in Yorkshire, UK, held copyright in the design of woollen plaid fabrics. One of their competitors reproduced their design without their consent which led Abraham Moon to successfully bring an action for copyright infringement against their competitors. Source: Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd v Thornber  EWPCC 37;  FSR 17
An owner of copyright in an original photograph (an artistic work) can file a copyright infringement claim against platforms, such as Instagram, to preclude the unlawful use of their photographs.
In 2019, singer Justin Bieber was sued by photographer Robert Barbera for uploading a photograph of himself and Rich Wilkerson onto Instagram without obtaining Barbera’s authorisation or paying a license fee. Illustrating his right to control the commercial use of his work, Barbera emphasised that he “is the author of the photograph and has at all times been the sole owner of all rights, titles and interest in and to the photograph, including the copyright thereto.” Source: Barbera v Justin Bieber Brands, LLC et al, 1:19-cv-09532 (SDNY).
Another example of controlling photographs uploaded onto Instagram without authorisation or payment of a license fee centred around Jennifer Lopez – also in 2019. In this case, the photo agency (Splash News) owner of copyright in the photo brought an action for copyright infringement, against Lopez, for using their photograph for commercial purposes, but, without their consent. Source: Splash News and Picture Agency, LLC v. Lopez, 2:19-cv-08598 (C.D. Cal.).
Copyright does not provide opportunities for absolute monopolisation, as with some industrial rights like patents. However, owning copyright could possibly help create a quasi-monopoly, by which the price of products protected by copyright as a whole or in part may be set slightly higher than competitors’ products, which potentially lead to the increase in revenue and ROI. For example, products and services sold in Disney World are expensive, but it seems like the price can be justified, as there is no other alternative for consumers. Further information.
Copyright protection of original creative works including computer software is formality-free in countries party to the Berne Convention – currently 128 countries. See this link to WIPO’s website for more information.
Microsoft forbids the unlawful reproduction of their software (protected as a literary work) by end users on the basis of their license agreement. In 2014, Microsoft brought a case against a UK-based software retailer (Discount Licensing) which unlawfully resold and imported Microsoft’s software into Europe. Although the case was settled out of court and Discount Licensing ultimately admitted that they had infringed the copyright of Microsoft, the defendant was still required to pay Microsoft a large amount of money for damages and legal costs. Source: news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2014/02/03/second-handsoftwarer/
In order to strengthen your position in case of litigation, keep careful original records of the existence of copyright and your rights to it, marking works where possible with the copyright symbol © and date of publication to show the existence of the copyright.
Even though official registration is not needed for copyright to exist and give protection, it may still be worth registering an important copyright in key countries such as the USA and China, thus providing clear evidence of ownership to aid success in mediation/settlement discussions or in legal infringement proceedings.
Enforcing copyright to stop unauthorised use of original works may be difficult and often expensive in practice if a simple warning letter proves unsuccessful. The help of an experienced IP professional may prove invaluable in achieving this.
For a useful suggested procedure to follow in the event that your copyright work is infringed see the Factsheet from the UK Copyright Service Copyright.
Protecting the copyright in a book – helpful case study made by the UK IP Office - Dan Tyte and Parthian Books.
Copyright owners can gain fame and enhance their reputation through their company’s copyrighted intellectual creations. For example, following the implementation of a parody exception in the UK, Cassetteboy – a duo of parody artists – became reputable for their parody works. Today, they earn a living from the exploitation of their parody works and have carried out commissioned work for international news outlets such as the BBC and the Guardian, which has further enhanced their reputation. Source: CassetteBoy remixes the news (for the Guardian).
In EU countries (and also in the UK), copyright protection in original literary, scientific and artistic works lasts for 70 years after the death of the last surviving author. In other countries which are party to the Berne Convention, the copyright protection in the work lasts for at least 50 years from the death of the author. Source: EU Your Europe - Business - IP - Copyright.
Corporate entities such as record labels and publishing houses collaborate with artists and authors to commercialise intellectual creations such as music and books. In 2019, Warner Music together with Sony Music brought a successful action for copyright infringement against an Internet radio station, TuneIn, for streaming locally licensed music, globally, by way of an Internet link. With no licenses covering streams beyond each radio station’s home state, TuneIn was found to infringe the copyright of two record labels. Source: Warner Music and Sony Music v TuneIn Inc  EWHC 2923 (Ch).
Copyright owners and Collective Management Organisations (CMOs) collaborate, with CMOs assisting copyright owners to commercialise their copyright. Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) – a CMO for newspapers and magazines – brought an action against Meltwater (a media monitoring service) and various companies using Meltwater’s services. NLA claimed that these companies and their customers were unlawfully receiving and using Meltwater’s services in which NLA holds copyright. The UK High Court ruled in favour of NLA, and the decision was also upheld in the UK Court of Appeal. Source: Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd v Meltwater Holding BV  EWHC 3099 (Ch);  ECDR 10; Newspaper Licensing Agency Ltd v Meltwater Holding BV  EWCA Civ 890;  RPC 1.
A copyright owner can employ character merchandising for exploitation of their copyright. For example, a collaboration between Primark, a renowned fashion retailer in the UK, and the copyright owners in a TV series called ‘Stranger Things’ premiered on Netflix, has led to customers being able to purchase Stranger Things-themed clothing and accessories in Primark. Source: primark.com/en/strangerthings.
Walt Disney owns the copyright in a variety of works and earns a large amount of revenue from character merchandising. For example, it was reported that Disney earned $54.7b in global retail sales of licensed consumer products in 2018. Source: licenseglobal.com/magazine-article/magical-world-disney.
J. K. Rowling’s novel Harry Potter novel series is another good example illustrating the generation of revenue from copyright licensing. Rowling licensed her copyright to Bloomsbury Publishers to have them publish and distribute her novels. Following that, Bloomsbury and she successfully sub-licensed her copyright to Warner Bros for the production of the Harry Potter film series, which resulted in enormous success for J. K. Rowling and Bloomsbury Publishers. Source: copyrightuser.org/educate/a-level-media-studies/prompt-1.
It is essential when working with other organisations or contractors, to ensure that contractual terms provide appropriately for the ownership and exploitation of any resulting copyright or other IP rights before the collaboration or contract starts.
Useful introductory series of 12 short (1-2 minutes) animated videos made by the UK IP Office explaining the different IP rights and how IP can benefit business: IP Basics – IP Made Easy. See also a very clear introduction to IP rights from Business Wales.
A range of 12 case studies made by the UK IP Office illustrating businesses using different IP rights: Businesses using IP.
Helpful video for businesses made by IP Australia: IP Basics for Business.
Another video from IP Australia IP, balancing costs and expenses.
Short introductory video developed by students at the University of Durham: What’s Intellectual Property got to do with you?.
Useful paper looking at how IP assets can be used to access growth funding of SMEs and showing that firms with IP rights have lower rates of default and loss than those without it (Source: British Business Bank).
Intangible assets. See ‘Understand Intellectual Property as a business asset’ (WIPO).
Making the right investments is crucial for enhancing the market value of an SME. See ‘Intellectual Property Protection as an investment’ (WIPO).
“Up to the 1980’s, tangible assets accounted for 80 percent of company value; the rest was made up by intangibles, including IP. Thirty years later, the reverse is true with 80 percent of company value made up of intangibles”. (Source: John P Ogier, IP, finance and economic development; WIPO Magazine).