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Hello. I am Ed, a Solicitor qualified in England and Wales with over a decade’s experience in the legal profession advising clients.
I specialise in Commercial Contracts, Business Transactions, Employment, Dispute Resolution, Personal Injury and Road Traffic Law and shall be reviewing your legal problem today.
I shall be delighted to talk with you by phone to discuss your issue in greater detail if you accept the site’s automatic offer of a Premium Service Phone Call.
Copyright arises naturally as soon as someone commits text to paper or computer screen. The copyright to the text of this conversation is owned by me! However, it is a very weak right and the burden of proving copying and direct financial loss because of the alleged infringement is very high.
There is no copyright in ideas per se until they are written down on paper and no person owns copyright in their own image, physical appearance, or likeness. Therefore, most pubic figures register as a trademark their own name and physical appearance.
Works such as book and film plot lines are protected by copyright, but it is very difficult to win these types of copyright infringement cases as long as the copying creators change enough of the plot, characters and dialogue so as the general reader, listener or viewer will know that the copied work is not by the same authors and is not a sequel or “spin-off”. There is a lucrative market in Direct-to-DVD “Mockbusters” which are clearly ripped-off from big budget Hollywood franchises: “Atlantic Rim” -v- “Pacific Rim” and “Transmorphers” -v- “Transformers” (!). Many a pulp novel writer has made a career out of stealing better authors’ ideas without being successfully sued. ***** ***** successfully defended a copyright claim by the authors of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”, the pseudo-historical book on the alleged real-life and genealogy of Jesus upon which Brown based the plot of his smash hit thriller, “The Da Vinci Code”.
There is also the risk of a competitor suing you under the Tort of “Passing Off” if your respective works are sufficiently similar to create confusion in the minds of the public to the extent that you are exploiting the other business’s goodwill in a way that could injure it.
Registering a piece of Intellectual Property as a Patent, Trademark or Design Right means that it is automatically protected from all other similar designs and the Right Holder does not have to prove deliberate copying by the other party.
You should investigate your competitors’ designs and images carefully to check whether they are protected by UK or International Trademarks, Design Rights, Patents and Creative Commons Licences. The creators’ own websites should assert what special IPRs protect their works and you can also search the following websites:
UK Intellectual Property Office
World Intellectual Property Organisation
EU Creative Commons
There is a risk that if you are using others’ works as the basis for your products, you will face an IPR Infringement Claim by the owners of the original works and must pay damages. I strongly recommend that you contact the IPR Owners and obtain express permission (licence) for you to use their works in your products and for you to pay them a share of your profits in return.
I have reviewed your scenario and your proposed use of others’ works and I believe that you will not be at risk of infringing on copyright or other Intellectual Property Rights. These terms are well-known terms in art and popular culture based on stories and characters which are firmly in the public domain and have entered public discourse as much as the phrase “to Google” is now a recognised term meaning “to search the Internet”. Furthermore, you are referencing these terms and characters by way of illustration for your own work, rather than “passing off” others’ work as your own.
You should consult with your publishers and their editors over proper attribution of others’ words and ideas. However, I believe that crediting the Intellectual Property Rights owners (i.e., the original authors and TV producers) within the main body of the text (i.e., “As Corporal Jones in the beloved BBC sitcom, ‘Dad’s Army’, used to say, ‘Don’t panic! Don’t panic!’”) and having a bibliography at the end of your book citing all others’ works you used to write your book will be more than sufficient.
I hope this is a satisfactory initial reply to your question and you understand my recommendations. Please revert to me if you do not understand anything and require clarification of my answer and I shall be delighted to assist.
I can also offer a Premium Service Consultation for an additional fee if you need detailed and bespoke legal advice. If you accept, I will pass you my direct email address and phone number. I can review any relevant documentation and consult with you by telephone for around 20 minutes. This will give you a clearer picture of your legal position and your potential options for progressing the matter to the next stage.
I hope that you are satisfied with my reply and wish you all the very best in resolving this matter.
If you require further legal advice from me, please create a new text thread on the portal and start it with @EdTurner. I will be notified of your request and prioritise it.