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As an individual, or a small, medium, or large business, if you have worked hard to create work, whether in the form of music, artistic work, film, written work, or performances, understanding copyright and copyright infringement will be vital to your commercial success. In the modern digital world it is easier than ever to become a content creator, but there are also an ever-increasing number of copyright infringements. Creators need to be careful to protect their work from copyright infringement, and where it occurs, take action immediately. 

What is copyright infringement?

In the UK, copyright law is defined in the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). There are two types of copyright infringement - primary and secondary. 

Primary copyright infringements


Section 16 of the CDPA explains that all of the following acts are considered to be primary infringements of copyright law:

  • copying of copyright work
  • issuing copies of copyright work publicly
  • renting or lending the work publicly
  • performing, showing or playing a copyrighted work publicly
  • communicating the work publicly
  • making an adaptation of a copyrighted work or doing any of the acts listed above in relation to an adaptation

In addition, under section 16(2) of the CDPA, authorising another party to undertake any of the above is also considered to be an infringement of copyright.

In order for a copyright infringement to be unlawful, it must relate to the “whole or a substantial part of the work, either directly or indirectly”. 

Secondary copyright infringements


As laid down in Section 22 and 23 of the CDPA, the following acts are considered to be secondary infringements of copyright law:

  • importing a copyrighted work into the UK, other than for the importer’s private and domestic use 
  • possessing, exhibiting in public, or distributing a copyrighted work
  • selling, letting for hire or offering or exposing it for sale or hire a copyrighted work
  • distributing a copyrighted work, other than in the course of a business, to such an extent as to prejudicially affect the copyright owner

Civil remedies for copyright infringement

In addition to undertaking criminal proceedings under the CDPA, which can lead to imprisonment and or a fine, a number of civil remedies are also available, these include:

  • interim orders (also referred to as interlocutory relief) - this includes Norwich Pharmacal orders, search orders, freezing orders, and interim injunctions
  • orders for the ‘delivery up’ of goods and documents
  • forfeiture 
  • final injunctions
  • damages or an account of profits

Final words

Knowing when and how to take appropriate action in the event of copyright infringement is essential in order to bring the matter to a successful conclusion for the party affected. This can be especially complex where the infringement involves other legal jurisdictions. By engaging a commercial IP Solicitor as soon as possible, they will be able to advise you on the most appropriate course of action based on the circumstances and your preferred outcome. 

Get legal assistance from LawBite

Many businesses own far more copyrights than they realise. It is important to know what copyrights your business has in relation to the work you create for your brand - our copyright lawyers are here to provide you with copyright law advice at every step.

Copyright protection is vital for any business. Our expert intellectual property lawyers can help give you the legal advice you need to protect your business.

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In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.