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How to sue for copyright infringement in the United Kingdom

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IP Disputes

Copyright infringement can cause businesses serious problems

It is important to know how and when to enforce. Our guide explains more.

Image of a gavel, representing legal enforcement

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Words by Dr Martin Douglas Hendry




Copyright law protects the rights of creators and owners of original works, including literary, musical, and artistic works. In the UK, copyright law provides a framework for enforcing those rights and protecting against copyright infringement. In this blog, we will explore the steps involved in suing for copyright infringement in the UK and the considerations to keep in mind before taking legal action.



Steps for Suing for Copyright Infringement in the UK


The first step in suing for copyright infringement is to identify the infringing work. This may involve conducting an investigation or retaining an expert to assist with the process. Once the infringing work has been identified, the next step is to gather evidence of ownership and infringement. This may include documentation of the creation of the original work, evidence of the defendant's unauthorized use, and evidence of the harm caused by the infringement.

After gathering the necessary evidence, the next step is to send a cease and desist letter to the infringing party. This letter should clearly state the allegations of infringement and demand that the infringing activity stop. If the infringing activity continues, the next step is to file a claim in court.

The court process typically involves preparing and filing the necessary legal documents, such as a statement of claim and evidence, and attending court proceedings. The court will consider the evidence and arguments presented by both parties and make a decision on the merits of the case. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, it will issue a ruling, which may include an award of damages and an injunction to stop the infringing activity.



Considerations Before Suing for Copyright Infringement


Before suing for copyright infringement, it is important to assess the strength of the case. This may involve obtaining legal advice and considering the cost of legal proceedings, which can be substantial. Alternative dispute resolution options, such as mediation or arbitration, may also be considered, as they can be quicker and less costly than court proceedings. Additionally, it is important to consider the impact that legal proceedings may have on business relationships, as well as the reputational consequences for both parties.



Defences for Copyright Infringement


In a copyright infringement case, the defendant may raise a number of defences, including fair dealing, statutory exceptions, lack of originality, and lack of substantial similarity. Fair dealing is a defence that may apply if the infringing use is for a limited and specific purpose, such as for the purpose of criticism, review, or news reporting. Statutory exceptions may apply if the use of the work is for specific purposes, such as education or research. The defences of lack of originality and lack of substantial similarity may apply if the defendant can prove that the work in question does not meet the threshold for copyright protection.




In conclusion, suing for copyright infringement in the UK is a complex process that requires careful consideration and planning. Understanding the steps involved in the process, as well as the considerations to keep in mind before taking legal action, can help to ensure a successful outcome. It is important to seek legal advice and assess the strength of the case before taking legal action, as well as to consider alternative dispute resolution options. Understanding the defences available in a copyright infringement case can also be helpful in assessing the risk of liability for copyright infringement.


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Look at our other guides that relate to this topic here.

How to appeal a copyright infringement claim

How to resolve a trademark dispute: our guidance

The importance of trademark registration in your business



Virtuoso Legal is a team of intellectual property specialists based in Leeds and London - operating worldwide. Virtuoso Legal's team of IP experts have successfully tried cases in the IPEC, High Court, Court of Appeals and United Kingdom Supreme Court. In addition, the team assist companies in creating, commercialising and protecting the big ideas that make their business unique. The firm and its professionals are ranked yearly in legal directories such as the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, cementing their status as a Top 2% law firm in the world.

DISCLAIMER: The content within this post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Virtuoso Legal does not take any responsibility for those that use this information and waives any liability for any resulting effect on your personal or commercial circumstances.

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