Intellectual Property | Councils Cough Up On Copyright

In April this year, the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) took legal action against Brighton & Hove Council for copyright infringement, leading the Council to agree to pay the CLA an undisclosed sum to cover legal costs and a retrospective copyright licence fee, as well as agreeing to take out a licence in future. Brighton & Hove Council had originally claimed it was not at risk of copyright infringement as it had its own “no copying” policy. Evidence gathered by the CLA however, showed that infringement was in fact clearly taking place, prompting the Council to take action.

Following the legal action, five other councils that had previously cancelled their copyright licences, conducted internal reviews which showed they were at risk of copyright infringement and potential legal action. They subsequently re-applied for copyright licences, while 15 other councils have taken out licences for the first time.

Legal Director of the CLA, Martin Delaney, said he was pleased to see that councils were recognising their legal requirement for a copyright licence, as it will help to protect the UK creative industries which are worth more than £36.2bn to the UK economy.

He also added that all of the CLA’s licensed councils are surveyed on a rolling basis and that data collected by the CLA shows that copying is common during the course of day-to-day activities, so there is no reason to doubt that these practices occur in all of the remaining unlicensed local authorities as well. According to the CLA, 140 of 450 UK councils remain unlicensed.

If a council is found to be breaching copyright from digital or print publications, in some cases, the council officers and employees can be held individually liable. This recent legal action increases the likelihood of councils taking out copyright licences.

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Mackrell Turner Garrett Solicitors in London