Lawyer warns of copyright pitfalls in TV documentary

THE LEGAL hurdles faced by designers who bring actions for copyright infringement by larger competitors were revealed in a television documentary film last week.

BBC2's 'Taking Liberties' showed how newcomers to sectors such as fashion and textiles found it tough to get justice when their ideas were stolen by the industry's big names.

Alexander Carter-Silk, a partner at London law firm Edward Lewis, provided the legal commentary for the programme.

He says: “Copying takes place in all the high street stores at some time and to some degree.”

Documentary-maker David Berry alleges that the scope for plagiarism has increased with modern technology.

Victims such as artists, musicians, designers or writers must prove their work has been copied. They must not only have the courage to challenge a powerful adversary, but must also have resources to fund the risky and time-consuming litigation, and compensation awards are usually quite small.

Carter-Silk represented Jenny and Peter Harris, a couple featured in the film, who took legal action against high street department store Littlewoods for allegedly stealing a jumper design.

The Harrises run a small knitwear firm, and believed one of their designs was being used without their being credited. They were offered £5,000 compensation by the store, but remained out of pocket because of their costs.

In another case, a young fashion student found her idea being sold by an Italian designer clothes manufacturer, after she had spent her summer on a work placement at the firm's factory.