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Protection is free, but who owns it?

Property Law

As small to medium business owners many of you may be unaware of a potential infringement suit lurking around the corner especially in respect to copyright.

Copyright is a form of protection afforded to literary and artistic works such as music, art, newspapers and computer programs and is governed by the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). As copyright is a form of intellectual property that is free and not required to be registered it often confuses people as to who actually owns the copyright in the work. It will be surprising to most people that copyright is often subject to a licence which confirms ownership.

Recently we had a case where our client was accused of infringing another’s copyright by replicating information from one magazine to another. Our client was not aware that this information was a breach of copyright given that the alleged infringing information was obtained from another third party due to a distribution relationship.

Unfortunately there was no distribution agreement in place to confirm that the owner of the information was not infringing a third party’s intellectual property and that the owner would indemnify our client if this occurred. Therefore despite the owner giving the information to our client, our client may be liable for damages. These potential costs to our client could have been avoided if there was a proper distribution agreement in place with the appropriate warranties and indemnities.

It is important than when obtaining information, images, music or the like from other sources that you undertake adequate due diligence to determine who is the owner of the copyright in the works and ensure there are adequate agreements in place to document any licence arrangement.

At Atkinson Vinden we understand the importance of protecting your intellectual property.  Please contact Senior Partner, Sheena Vinden, on (02) 9411 4466 if you would like assistance in this area.