Jim Staton has been a litigation solicitor for 36 years and has headed the Schofield Sweeney litigation…View Profile View all
Two recent High Court cases have underlined the serious consequences that can flow from breaches of copyright particularly where the breach is premeditated and “flagrant”.
In the first case, a nightclub owner was pursued by PPL (a body which enforces copyright for the music industry) for playing recorded music without a PPL licence. An injunction was obtained to prevent further playing of music without a licence and the defendant was allowed to settle the outstanding licence fees by instalments. Not only did he default on the instalment plan, but was found to have played music in breach of the injunction. Although there was only one occasion of playing in breach of the injunction, he was sentenced to 28 days in prison suspended for 12 months on condition that he did not play recorded music at the club. He also had to pay the outstanding licence fees and the claimant’s costs, together with £6,000 enhanced damages for his flagrant disregard of the law under the special provisions of s.97 Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988.
The second case also brought into play s.97. In that case a Yorkshire based loft conversion company used 21 photographs, the copyright in which belonged to a London based loft conversion business purporting to illustrate work that the Yorkshire based company had done. The London based claimant sought £30,000 for damages for use of its copyrighted images. The defendant admitted breaching copyright and offered to pay £3,000 for the use of the images.
The Court awarded the claimant only £300 for use of the images but because of the flagrancy of the breach, exemplified by what the Judge felt to be the defendant’s untruthful evidence, the Judge found that s.97 of the 1988 Act came into play and although awarding only modest damages of £300 for use of the images, he awarded a further £6,000 damages under s.97 and in addition granted the claimant an injunction to prevent further infringement and also ordered the defendant to pay the majority of the claimant’s costs.
Both cases are a reminder that the consequences of copyright breach, particularly where “flagrant”, can be very serious and expensive.
For further advice contact James Staton on 01274 306 000.