Copyright Law Still Applies on the Web

The idea that the Internet is a free-for-all is nothing more than a persistent myth and the consequences of publishing copyright material online without permission can be severe. In one case, a television news broadcaster found itself in hot water after publishing a love poem on its website, to the chagrin of the poem's author.

The author had attracted media interest after penning what was billed as the longest love poem ever written. One of the broadcaster's reporters arranged an interview with him and persuaded him to send her a copy of the poem. It appeared on the broadcaster's website for just over 24 hours before it was taken down following the author's complaint. He responded by launching a claim for an injunction and damages for alleged infringement of his copyright.

The broadcaster admitted that the author owned the copyright in the poem but denied infringement on various grounds. However, in refusing to strike out the author's claim, the High Court was not satisfied that it amounted to an abuse of process or that the litigation had been conducted in an improper manner. The ruling opened the way for the author to pursue his case to trial.

In such cases an out-of-court settlement is the most likely result, but the situation could have been avoided entirely had the copyright owner's permission been obtained in advance of publication.