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Copyright Litigation in the UK Courts: Data and Analysis

About this project
Georg von Graevenitz

Luke McDonagh

Leslie Lansman

Lead investigator(s):
Dr Georg von Graevenitz
– Dr Luke McDonagh
– Ms Leslie Lansman

Start Date: 1st June 2015
End Date: 31st May 2016


The main aim of this project is to collect data on copyright litigation from UK courts and provide initial analysis. This would usually be a very costly and time consuming undertaking. However, ongoing efforts to collect data on patent litigation present an opportunity to expand data collection to the domain of copyright.

Upon completion of data collection two broad lines of inquiry would be pursued: the first would provide a descriptive characterization of the nature of copyright cases being heard at the High Court (HC). The second would focus on measuring the quality of judicial decisions.

In the first project we would describe trends in copyright litigation and identify significant changes in legal precedent. Such work is an essential precondition for analyses seeking to iden- tify causal effects of litigation on business success and authors’ incentives. We would draw on previous work studying IP litigation (Waldfogel, 1995, Siegelman and Waldfogel, 1999, Waldfogel, 1998, Lanjouw and Lerner, 1998). Additionally, the lack of data on copyright litigation has implications beyond academia: legal practitioners often focus on simple descriptive statistics such as win rates when providing advice to litigants. This first project would improve the basis of facts used by practitioners and businesses.

In a second project we would use copyright and patent litigation data to analyze the quality of legal decisions. This project would provide evidence on the relative importance of a judges’ experience and the complexity or novelty of subject matter on the probability of reversal. Results will be of interest to the courts themselves, especially in the light of the enactment of the Constitutional Reform Act in 2005 which reformed the process for appointing judges within England and Wales. Several HC IP judges have since been appointed. Legal practitioners who are seeking to obtain speedy decisions from the courts may also be interested in the results of this work. We would study the proportion of copyright cases overturned on appeal. This measure has been used to predict judicial promotion in the USA and the UK (Higgins and Rubin, 1980, Vidal and Leaver, 2011). Reversal on appeal as a proxy for quality of a judgement can be adjusted to account for co-variates relating to litigants and characteristics of the case.