To Kill a Mockingbird – Copyright dispute resolved

To kill a mockingbird

Image by Lindsay Stanford, 2013. Shared under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

Harper Lee (87) the author of the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, has settled a lawsuit which she filed against her literary agent for allegedly tricking her into assigning over the copyright of her novel.  The copyright of the work had been placed in the safekeeping of Lee’s former literary agent, Eugene Winick, who had represented Lee since the 1960s.  After Winick became ill his affairs were managed by his son-in-law Samuel L. Pinkus.  Lee said she had no recollection of agreeing to relinquish her rights or signing over the copyright in a transfer agreement. The case has now been resolved and the defendant’s lawyer said that Lee’s royalties were never in danger. 

For further advice regarding copyright transfer agreements see the page on Publishing your work.

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Freddie Murcury, a gorilla and the yellow jacket in copyright row

Freddie Mercury Gorilla

Image: 13 Freddie ‘Radio Go Go’ Gorilla by Mira 66, 2013. Copied under CC licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


 A sculpture of a gorilla impersonating Freddie Mercury by wearing a yellow jacket and white trousers is the latest focus of an argument over copyright. The sculpture was exhibited in Norwich as part of an art trail but on Monday 8th July 2013, its removal was ordered by the Freddie Mercury estate who claim that the gorilla breaches copyright law. The sculptor Mr Richardson, who is a huge fan of Queen, claims that he did not copy the outfit exactly but altered it so that it became ‘fan art’.

Fans of the Freddie gorilla have contacted Queen’s guitarist, Brian May, via Twitter. May has responded to say he will “find out” more about this bizarre case.

To read more about this story, please see the BBC’s article at this link:



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“Happy Birthday to you” but only if you’ve paid your licence fee!

Happy Birthday

Image: ‘Birthday Candles’ by ed g2s shared under a CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrated licence

The world famous song “Happy Birthday” is now at the centre of a copyright battle after US based filmmaker, Jennifer Nelson, used the song in a documentary.  Warner/Chappell Music have launched legal action against Nelson after claiming that they own the copyright in the tune and the lyrics.  They have ordered her to pay $1500 for a licence to use the song in her documentary, but Nelson is challenging this order as she claims the copyright expired in 1921.  Nelson is accusing the production company of unnecessarily extracting licence fees for a song which should be in the public domain.

It is reported that Warner/Chappell has already collected at least $2 million annually in licencing fees by charging performances which are sung for profit such as films and TV shows. Under current UK copyright law, if a musical work protected by copyright is sung in a place of public entertainment, including a restaurant which can be hired, then this could be classed as secondary copyright infringement. To read more about this bizzare case please click here.

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Copyright in designs extended from 25 -70 years

File:Ngv design, ludwig mies van der rohe & co, barcelona chair.JPG

Barcelona chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich. Image courtesy of Salko, 2009 licensed under a CC 3.0 Licence.

Last month, the government passed the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which repeals section 52 of the CDPA 1988.

This is good news for designers, as designs which qualify for copyright protection are now protected for 70 years from the death of the creator. Previously works were only protected for 25 years from the date the work was placed on the market. The new measures will apply to works created before 1987 where the work is a creative design which has been manufactured or exploited through an industrial process.  The types of works affected will include certain types of furniture, jewellery, lamps and ceramics. However, not all works will necessarily be classed as artistic works and will not be afforded copyright protection.  The changes will not apply retrospectively so retailers will be able to continue selling unauthorised stock.

The Design Council and designers such as Sir Terence Conran and Tom Dixon have welcomed these changes.  Click here to read their comments. For further information about the difference between copyright, design right and registered designs please follow this link.

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3D Printing and Copyright

If you have a snazzy new 3D printer in your department, then consider the possibility that you could potentially infringe copyright, a design right, patent or trademark.  Currently the world of licencing has not caught up and there are no suitable licences available for the University to purchase to cover 3D printing.  If you are unsure, please contact the Copyright Team for advice.

This area is being hotly discussed at the moment. If you are interested in this area then read the webpages on the American University of IP and Read Write.

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Shop in India Sued for Copyright Infringement

A small shop located on a University campus in Dehli, India, has been sued for copyright infringement by three leading international publishers.  The shop has been photocopying academic textbooks and supplying the copies to students for a small charge. The students and some authors have protested saying the publishers are putting profit before education, however the publishers say they have no alternative but to pursue this course of action.

To view the full BBC news story please follow this link: 

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US Blogger sued for using images in copyright

American based romance author Roni Loren, has revealed that she has been sued for using images on her blog which she did not know were protected by copyright.  Roni had been using images found on the Internet to illustrate her blog posts, until a photographer contacted her with a take down notice.  Although Roni quickly removed the copyright image from her blog, she was forced to pay compensation and says that it was “a lot of stress, lawyers had to get involved, and I had to pay money that I didn’t have for use of a photo I didn’t need”.  The author has since changed the images on 700 blog posts to avoid the same mistake happening again.

In the UK as well as the US, the law does not support the re-use of copyright images for purely illustrative purposes.  However, you can still use images on your blog posts.  You just need to make sure you are using images with permission from the copyright owner.  Getting permission directly can be difficult so the best way to do this is by using the Creative Commons Search facility, which finds images and other media that has been licenced for re-use.  Usually you will need to attribute the image to the owner and always check the licence terms for each image.  Further information can be found in the section on Sourcing and Using Resources on this website.

To read more about Roni’s story in her own words please see her blog: 



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Google receives record numbers of copyright takedown requests


On the 24th May 2012, Google expanded their Transparency Report to include a new section on copyright which discloses the number of takedown requests which they receive from copyright owners.  The launch has been marked by a ‘rapid’ increase in the number of requests.  Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel, Fred von Lohmann, commented that it is,

“not unusual for us to receive more than 250,000 requests each week, which is more than what copyright owners asked us to remove in all of 2009. In the past month alone, we received about 1.2 million requests made on behalf of more than 1,000 copyright owners to remove search results. These requests targeted some 24,000 different websites”.

Google are disclosing data from July 2011 and plan to update their figures daily. So far Google has not commented on why the number of takedown requests has increased but the figures highlight that copyright owners are being vigilant and taking measures to ensure their work is removed from infringing websites.

To find out more about this story please visit Google’s Official Blog.  If you need help with sourcing and using copyright friendly materials please see this section on the blog.



Posted on 8/6/2012 by C. Greasley

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Publishers Association Fights to Stop Piracy

At the Publishers Association’s (PA) Annual General Meeting held on the 2nd May 2012, members were called to step up the fight against piracy.  The PA urged authors to pursue cases of copyright infringement or “theft” and to make consumers aware of the considerable work that is invested into creating a published book.   In 2011, the association spent £196,000 on anti-piracy measures over the course of the year.

With the increase of ebooks in today’s digital age, intellectual piracy threatens creative expression as never before.  Internet piracy is more often than not associated with music piracy but the PA have highlighted how piracy is now becoming an issue with books.

To read more about this please click on this link.


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UK Student Extradited to US for Copyright Infringement

Image copyright Vectorportal, reproduced under CC Licence from Flickr

On Wednesday 14th March 2012, Richard O’Dwyer, a 23 year old student from Sheffield Hallam University was told that he will be extradited to the US on charges of copyright infringement.   Although Richard has not broken UK copyright laws, the Home Secretary Theresa May has approved the decision to send him to America where the copyright laws are tighter. 

Richard is accused of making £147,000 from providing links to copyright infringing material, including links to film and TV clips via his website TVShack.  

To hear Richard’s BBC interview click here.

Further details about this case are available from

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