Director's Duties: Copyright Infringement

A warning to Directors

A case in the Scottish Court of Session highlights the importance for directors of not having too close a personal involvement in a company's activities. The court ruled that S (the sole director and shareholder of a company trading as a licensor of classical music recordings) was jointly liable for infringement of copyright in recordings of classical music issued through the company's website.

The court held that S was not only acting as a director of the company but also as an individual setting up the website and putting, or causing to be put, infringing material on it for sale. This made him liable as a principal, not only for his own acts but also for those of the company on the basis both of procurement and of acting in concert with the company.

What is copyright?

• Copyright protects original artistic, musical, dramatic and literary works, including computer programs, sound recordings, films, broadcasts and typographical arrangements of published works.

• It arises automatically on the creation of the work and lasts for 70 years after the death of the author for artistic, musical, dramatic and literary works. Sound recordings and broadcasts are protected for 50 years from the date of publication (this limit is set to rise to 70 years within the next two years).

• Copyright does not protect against independent development of the same idea(s), only against the actual copying of another's work.

• Ownership of copyright in a work will allow the owner to prevent unauthorised use of the work, such as:

o the making of copies of the work;
o broadcasting the work; or
o making the work available on the internet.

If you have any queries about the content of this article, please contact our Business Law Team.

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