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Court awards joint ownership in copyright dispute

Posted: 3rd April 2012   In: Corporate Commercial

When commissioning creative work it’s important to establish in advance who owns the copyright.

Failure to do so can lead to disputes and legal action, as shown in a recent case before the Patents County Court.

It involved a video producer who asked a cameraman to shoot some video of a skydive over Mount Everest. The producer paid for the trip and the cameraman’s expenses in return for him shooting the footage.

A dispute arose later when the producer used some of the video in a television programme, and the cameraman showed some of it on YouTube. Both men claimed they owned the copyright.

The court held that although it was the producer’s intention that he would own the copyright, it was more than likely that he had not explained this to the cameraman in advance.

The court decided that in the absence of a formal agreement, the contested video should be regarded as a work of joint ownership. This meant that both needed the other’s permission to reproduce the work and both should benefit equally from any royalties that accrued.

This compromise was far from satisfactory for either side but it was the fairest solution the court could find in the circumstances. However, the dispute could have been avoided had ownership been agreed in advance.

Please contact Jon Alvarez if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article.