Dec 11, 2015

Copyright: Ownership and Assignment, and Henry Hadaway

A recent case involving a copyright ownership dispute in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court exemplifies the importance of having clear intellectual property ownership provisions in agreements and contracts. If a dispute arises and the legal owner cannot be traced a very expensive legal battle may ensue. The Judgment can be found here.

A number of recordings, known collectively as The Shows Collection, were produced as a result of an agreement between music producer Mr Lorenz and a company referred to in the case as Pickwick 1 (Pickwick 2 is the same Company after a subsequent change of name). Mr Lorenz had, prior to his death, operated through a company. The Claimant in this case - Henry Hadaway - claimed he was the exclusive licensee of various recordings though that company and the owner of copyright in the remainder of recordings under an assignment from the company, pursuant to agreements between himself and Mr Lorenz.

Pickwick 2 (the Defendant) had allegedly copied the recordings and made adaptations of the same, and issued and communicated those to the public. The Defendant accepted at the outset that if the Claimant could establish ownership (through the license and assignment mentioned above) then there copyright infringement had occurred. The Defendant's position was that Pickwick 1 was the owner of the copyright and had never assigned it to Mr Lorenz who could not therefore have licensed or assigned rights to the Claimant, and, even if it had, Mr Lorenz's company had not actually licensed or assigned the rights.

Sound Recordings

Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), the author of sounds recordings is the producer, and a producer is defined as "the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the sound recording… are undertaken". Despite Pickwick 2 being identified on the CD covers as the copyright owner, the court found Mr Lorenz to be the producer, and rejected the idea of joint ownership. Generally, this decision was reached by considering their roles in the relationship – Mr Lorenz was the only party actually capable or making the relevant arrangements, Pickwick being a production company largely exploiting the creativity and work of others. There had been no assignment of copyright from Mr Lorenz to Pickwick 1.

Ultimately, the court found that the Claimant was the exclusive licensee and, further, assignee of the recordings – "Pickwick 2 has no rights to exploit any of the recordings and no consent from" the Claimant. Ownership of intellectual property rights is a complex area but at a basic level, in the absence of a clear assignment to the contrary (as was the case here), the creator will be the owner.

 

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