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tdlawyer, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 1096
Experience:  11 years experience of general practice.
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Commercial Copyright Infringement

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Company A has a commercial website and many competitors. B is A's main competitor.

A claims B copied a very substantial part of A's website text and reproduced it on B's commercial website.

Notwithstanding the fact that B is A's closest competitor (both company websites sit one above the other in every search engine/telephone directory, etc), A claims it discovered the copied website text only last month (six years after the potentially infringing material appeared on B's website).

The website text in question gives facts about pursuing a particular course of action.

A requests a signed undertaking from B:

1. Stop using and not use again the copyrighted material
2. A schedule of sales since the DATE OF INCORPORATION
3. To pay such damages or profits relating to the breach of copyright as may be agreed or determined by a court.
4. To pay A's reasonable legal costs incurred in connection with the breach of copyright.


1. What are the potential civil and/or criminal consequences for B?

2. If there are potential criminal consequences, would signing the undertakings have any affect on any potential criminal consequences?

2. What are the consequences of ignoring A's letter?

3. What if B's website contains some of A's website text AND B didn't copy it from A's website, but B copied it from various other websites that have over many years copied A's website text?

4. A's requests a signed undertaking to provide a schedule of sales since the DATE OF INCORPORATION of B's company. What if B's company has NOT been using the copyrighted text since the DATE OF INCORPORATION?

5. What if B can prove that A knew about B's use of it's material during the 6 year period, but A chose to do nothing (until now of course)?

tdlawyer : Hi, thanks for your question. My name isXXXXX should be able to assist you with this.
tdlawyer : In answer to your specific questions:
tdlawyer : 1. the potential civil liability is an action for damages against B for using the copyrighted materials. This means the infringed person can insist on damages or an account of profits (i.e. taking money made from use of the copyrighted materials, although it's often hard to show what money is actualla made from the use of the actual material).
tdlawyer : 2. Copyright issues tend to be civil ones in the main, but there are criminal offences for online dissemination etc., and for importing and exporting copyrighted materials, but the online offences are pretty low in terms of penalties.
tdlawyer : 3. Knowledge is relevant for a criminal offence, so if the text appears in your website, for example, from somebody else's website without knowledge, it's unlikely rhe offences have been committed. However, the civil actions potentially still subsists, but there are defences again there where the dissemination is innocent. I support, however, if the copyrighted material is used as, for example, marketing literature, it's unlikely to be innocent, but that's an issue of fact.
tdlawyer : 4. This is a matter of strategy/tactics, whether you would comply depends on the extend of evidence against you and whether you would seek to settle quickly or allow the matter to be contested at court. For example, showing the sums made might cause somebody to pursue you, or abandon you, it just depends. Equally, attirbuting sums made due to the use of copyrighted material is extremely difficult.
tdlawyer : 5. There is a 6 year limitation period (generally speaking) on brining actions for copyright infringement. That starts when you first breach copyright, not the date of knowledge.
tdlawyer : So if they claim outside of the 6 year period, their claim is likely to be barred anyway insofar as it seeks compensation.
tdlawyer : Is there anything you would like me to focus upon?
Customer: I'm just going through your answer.
tdlawyer : ok
Customer: 5. There is a 6 year limitation period (generally speaking) on brining actions for copyright infringement. That starts when you first breach copyright, not the date of knowledge.
Customer: Please can you clarify when you mean by 'That starts when you first breach copyright, not the date of knowledge'?
Customer: Please can you clarify what you mean by 'That starts when you first breach copyright, not the date of knowledge'?
Customer: Are you still there?
tdlawyer : I'm here.
tdlawyer : When the copyright is first infringed, i.e. taken and used, this is when limitation starts. It doesn't matter that it was not discovered until, say, a year later.
Customer: So if B started to use the copyrighted material more than 6 years ago, A can't bring an action for infringement?
tdlawyer : Yes, that's right. The law is a little more complex on non-monetary remedies, such as seeking an injunction to prevent use of materials, but 6 years for damages is correct. It's one of those points solicitors would seek counsel's specialist opinion on, as there is a myriad of case law which is not enitirely consistent on this issue.
Customer: In terms of criminal consequences, are the police likely to investigate? What could be the maximum penalty? How often are people who use text from others websites prosecuted?
tdlawyer : It's not the police, it's the office of fair trading that would investigate (if anybody). I don't think it happens very often at all, and it would normally have to be rather high profile to be heard of at all.
tdlawyer : If you're a major international player, for example, then it might get noticed, whereas if you're a small hardware shop on the local high street, I doubt there would be any interest criminally. I wouldn't want to say the criminal side applies only to multi-million turnover entities, because it doesn't, but there has to be a reality check in these things, the resources don't exist to deal with everyday issues of small value/extent etc. Plus, the internet is a big place with many regular infringements no doubt.
Customer: What do you think B should do (now that B has received A's letter)?
tdlawyer :

Speak to a solicitor! Then, you need to identify the strength of evidence against you. It's not easy for me to say what you should do next other than that really, because there are so many variables at play. If, for example, you had a good limitation argument, then I would be saying that you should likely refuse they things they're asking for - but it would be wrong of me to suggest any particular course for you to follow for those obvious reasons.

Customer: Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX
tdlawyer :

Thank you!

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