You are the Judge – copyright question

 

The fourth scenario in our You are the Judge series is a situation in which a person has created original content and lost it, but hadn't done anything to register the content. How does copyright law work? How is ownership proved?

What do you think the correct answer is in this situation?
 

Intellectual property - books

 

Tracy loved writing.

For years she had been working on a novel, a Victorian murder mystery called “Black Candelabra”. She kept the work in progress in a folder that she carried everywhere with her.

One day, to her utter dismay, she left it on the bus. She made several attempts to find it but it was never handed in, and she assumed that her story was lost.

Some years later, Tracy was in a bookshop and noticed that a new best seller was also called “Black Candelabra”. Intrigued, but assuming it was a coincidence, she bought a copy. To her shock, it was her novel, completed and printed under someone else’s name!

Tracy had never seriously intended to publish her novel and had never done anything to protect her intellectual property. Is she entitled to anything? What can she do?

Let us know what you think.

The answer:

In the UK, copyright exists automatically in any new writing.

Everything from a child’s homework to a shopping list, and including the next bestseller, is copyrighted without the author needing to lift a finger. There is no need even to include the © symbol, which is an artefact from an older system.

However, this doesn't mean that Tracy can sit back and watch the cash roll in. She will need to prove - on the balance of probabilities - that it is her work, for example through any other notes she has on it, or witness statements from people she had told about it.

If she can manage this, she should be able to claim any money paid to the purported author.

Call
0808 1593 554
or fill in the form
Our trained advisor contacts you
Your chosen specialist solicitor calls you
Quick enquiry form
Area of law:
Name:
Town/City:
Email:
Phone:
What our clients say about us
"This was the first time I've been to court, which was a nerve-racking experience for me. However, I felt very prepared, I understood my case and representation - this was down to you."
Gavin, criminal motoring, Oct 15
"Your service, and the prompt call back from your recommended firm was very good. I would not hesitate to call again or recommend your service."
Ian, employment law, Truro, July 15
"The firm were excellent, could not have been better! They are exactly what I need right now."
Linda, criminal defence, Thames Ditton, Jul 15
"Your contact and service was immediate and utmost professional, 10/10."
TF, conveyancing, Dudley, Jun 15
"I appreciate the service that you provide. I found you to be courteous, efficient and reassuring at a time when my confidence in justice is completely negative."
Patrick, litigation, Pontypridd, Jun 15
"I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the speed of which you came back to me in. If anyone else can benefit from your help like I have done, it would make my day."
Gail M, family law, Potters Bar, Jun 15
"Your assistance was extremely helpful. Particularly to someone who in 40 years of business has never experienced this sort of issue."
TD, commercial litigation, Galashiels, Apr 15
"It is difficult to express the value Contact Law has to someone like me who had very little understanding of the law and how to proceed forward with my case. Thank you for the service you provided."
AE, defamation law, Worthing, Apr 15
"Thank you for the efficient service I received. I was contacted by your solicitor on the same day as my request. Your quick response to my situation made me feel secure."
AN, employment law, London, Apr 15
"Your service was excellent, very fast and informative. I never got the impression of being pressurised at all. The solicitor you recommended was also excellent – very knowledgeable and supportive."
JHD, Motoring law, Liverpool, Apr 15
Contact Law supports the endeavours of STAE and commends all the work they are undertaking to assist in the plight of the Asian Elephant

 

We use cookies on the Contact Law site to help us improve it.

If you would like to allow our cookies, please click 'Continue' or carry on browsing. For more information on cookies and how to change your settings, click 'More info'.