Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


Someone has infringed my copyright. What do I do?

Published 14.06.10 at 11:43

If you are the owner of copyright, you have the right to allow or restrict the use of your copyright work.  This allows you to stop anyone else from doing a number of restricted acts which include copying or adapting your work or distributing, performing it to the public or communicating it electronically to the public without your permission.

For someone to have infringed your copyright, they must have done one of the restricted acts in relation to the whole or a substantial part of your work without your permission.  What amounts to copying a substantial part of your work will depend on the circumstances and whether the part that makes your work original was copied. 

In addition, there are a few exceptions to copyright infringement which may apply.  These are acts which are permitted where the user can demonstrate that their use of your work was for private study or non-commercial research purposes or for the purposed of criticism, review or news reporting.

Practical steps
Usually, the first step that you should take is to approach the party you believe is responsible for the infringement and ask them to stop. If they want to continue using your work, you may want to consider granting them limited permissions for use in the form of a licence. In this way you remain the owner of the copyright but would charge them a licence fee or royalty rate for their use of your copyright. If you decide to offer a licence you should contact an IP specialist before entering into any agreement.

If you are a member of an organisation which represents copyright owners, such as BLACA, it may be helpful to seek advice from them.

If such attempts fail, your best option is to sue them for copyright infringement. If you decide to do so, you should seek legal advice straight away. Court proceedings are likely to be lengthy and costly and, depending on the circumstances, it can be difficult to prove infringement. However, if you are successful, the court may award you the following remedies:

  • An injunction – this is a court order which would prevent the infringer from doing anything which would further infringe your copyright.
  • Monetary remedies:
  1. Damages – this is the award of a sum of money to put you in the same position you would have been in had your copyright not been infringed;
  2. An account of profits – if the infringing party has made a profit from infringing your copyright, they will be required to hand over to you any earnings they have made from the sale or distribution
  • 'Delivery up' of the infringing goods – where the infringing party is required to deliver to you all copies in their possession.

If the infringement is being done intentionally and on a large commercial scale with distribution or sale to the public, you may consider informing the police or your local Trading Standards Department. If they decide to take action against or prosecute the infringing party, they would expect your full involvement. This would include providing evidence of infringement, identifying the works that have been infringed and participating in the court proceedings. In taking this step, you must be willing to invest time and effort in assisting them as they will have control over the case. The advantage is that you do not incur any legal fees, and the infringer is likely to take the case very seriously.

Content supplied by College of Law students at the Moorgate Centre supervised by Tim Harris of Bird & Bird LLP. Photo credit: Mercedes


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


  1. In theory....

    In theory, yes, but it has been my experience in practical terms, no, there is no redress unless you are very wealthy and can afford the best lawyers, or a pro bono, especially if those in breach are major or international Government-backed organisations.

    I have been told I have to find a solicitor, so merely keep all the proofs but 'if and when' I can progress, the matter will no doubt be out of time. Also, the more obscure a corner of IP the less chance of anyone helping.

    This is not to undermine what is said bv the experts as there are some general more easy situations.

    Posted by Hazel Speed on 02.08.10 at 11:52

  2. Pleasse address reality

    I am pleased that ownit have moved a little towards reality. It is pointless giving courses about how to protect your copyright when you cannot enforce infringement. Most of us need insurance/third party investment to go to court. Where are they? That is what ownit should focus at least 50% of its time on.
    Thank you for the info on BLANCA, I will check them out. In the meantime if anyone knows of an open minded solicitor/barrister that will do copyright infringement on a conditional fee basis, please let me know. vlilley@lilleyinfosys.co.uk. I could do the case myself but I need the insurance. I’ve asked Bird and Bird and they said no. A Law Student would be OK, if they can get the insurance/third partyinvestment

    Posted by Victor Lilley on 02.08.10 at 14:32


You must be logged in to post comments. Please sign in below or register here.


Knowledge Search
    • Last Week
    • No Limit
    • Past 30 days
    • Today
    • Last Month
    • Any Sector
    • Advertising & Marketing
    • Architecture
    • Design
    • Designer Maker
    • Digital/New Media
    • Fashion
    • Film & Video
    • Museums & Galleries
    • Music
    • Performing Arts
    • Photography
    • TV & Radio
    • Visual Arts
    • Writing & Publishing

Related content

  • Who owns the copyrigh...

    To avoid disputes over copyright ownership phot... view story

  • I work in theatre: Wh...

    Copyright is an intellectual property right tha... view article