Litigation Recent Decisions 31/03/98

Decisions are taken from Lawtel's Case Law database. LTL: Lawtel report; TLR: Times Law Reports; ILR: Independent Law Report.

Copyright in categorisation of radio station playlist

Robin Ray v Classic FM (1998)

ChD (Lightman J) 18/3/9The plaintiff, a writer and broadcaster of classical music, claimed against a radio station, for breach of copyright. At issue was the entitlement of the parties to the intellectual property rights in five documents containing proposals on how the tracks on the defendant's music recordings should be categorised in a catalogue of more than 50,000 items of classical music compiled by the plaintiff over a five-year period and in a database in which the contents of the five documents and of the catalogue were substantially reproduced. While the plaintiff was engaged to provide services to the defendant under what was termed a consultancy agreement, he prepared the five documents and the catalogue as a preliminary step to the incorporation by the defendant of the material contained in the database. The defendant compiled the database using proprietary software known as Selector. This was the first time that software had been used for a classical music station and it was adapted for that purpose by the defendant and RCS, the software manufacturer. Differences arose between the plaintiff and the defendant during the currency of the consultancy agreement as to the entitlement of the defendant to exploit the database by making copies and granting licences to foreign radio stations to use those copies and these differences resulted in the commencement of these proceedings. It was common ground that the defendant was entitled to use and make copies of the database for the purpose of broadcasting from its radio station in the UK. The issues which arose in the case were: (1) Whether the defendant was a joint author with the plaintiff of the five documents and the catalogue and whether the plaintiff was a joint author of the database. (2) If so, whether the defendant, as joint owner of the copyright, was entitled to make the copies for the purpose for which it did without the consent of the plaintiff. (3) Whether the consultancy agreement constituted a contract of employment which vested legal ownership of the copyright in the five documents and the catalogue in the defendant as documents created by the plaintiff in the course of his employment by the defendant. (4) If the consultancy agreement did not constitute a contract of employment, whether the defendant was none the less the owner in equity as a result of an implied term of the consultancy agreement.