Intellectual property – guidance

Enforcing your copyright

How to enforce copyright when somebody uses your work without your permission.

Overview

Copyright is a private right. Decisions about how to enforce your right, ie what to do when someone uses your copyright work without your permission, are for you to take.

Infringement is where someone uses the whole or a substantial part of your work without your permission and none of the exceptions to copyright apply.

Although you do not have to, it will usually be sensible, and save you time and money, to try to resolve the matter with the party you think has infringed your copyright. In some cases it may be necessary to show the court that you have tried to solve the matter with the other party. Mediation is one way of resolving an issue before starting court proceedings.

If you cannot resolve the matter with the other party, then going to court may be the right solution. But it would be a good idea to seek legal advice at an early stage, and to consider alternative solutions such as mediation before going to court.

One of the many organisations representing copyright owners may also be able to give you advice, or, if you are a member, sometimes act on your behalf.

If you do go to court, the courts can:

  • stop that person making further infringing use of the material by granting an injunction
  • award the copyright owner damages
  • make the infringing party give up the goods to the copyright owner

Deliberate infringement of copyright on a commercial scale may be a criminal offence when additional remedies are also available.

Substantial part

A substantial part is not defined in copyright law but has been interpreted by the courts to mean a qualitatively significant part of a work even where this is not a large part of the work. Therefore, it is quite likely that even a small portion of the whole work will still be a substantial part.