Copyright cases covered

THE NUJ has broken new ground by expanding its legal services to members in England and Wales to include pursuit of copyright infringement. The NUJ has agreed with Thompsons, the firm of solicitors engaged to represent members' work-related cases, to extend the current service of up to two hours' advice, so that copyright infringement cases of any value - and breach of contract claims with a value greater than £5000 - can be pursued at no cost to the member or to the union.

Copyright infringement cases are not always about the ownership of copyright, but often the terms of the licence agreed. It is vital to have a discussion about what rights you will be licensing when you are commissioned, as part of your negotiation over fees. You should get them to confirm this in writing or confirm it yourself, so that everyone is clear what usage is agreed, before you accept the commission: see www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/advice.html

Roy Mincoff, NUJ Legal Officer, explained: "Because of the specialist nature and potential complexity of copyright infringement cases, the Civil Procedure Rules in England and Wales have been amended so that all intellectual property claims including copyright matters, are now allocated to the "multi-track process". This means they have to be started in a County Court where there is a Chancery District Registry; in a Patents County Court; or in the Chancery Division of the High Court. Intellectual property matters are no longer assigned to the Small Claims track.

"So costs can now be recovered in successful copyright infringement actions, whatever their value."

If you believe that someone has used your work unlawfully, get evidence of the infringement. If your work is being used on a website, make date-stamped printouts which show clearly your work being used.

The union will support a claim only if it has reasonable prospects of success. If an offer were made, it would have to be considered, together with the value of the claim, in determining whether support would be given or continued.

  • Contact the Freelance Office before anyone else if you think you have a case.
  • Meanwhile in Scotland, the limit for Small Claims has increased to £3000; in England and Wales it remains £5000.

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