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Copyright Litigation in English Courts 2009-2015: Data and Analysis


Investigator: Georg von Graevenitz

Co-Investigator: Luke McDonagh

Contributor: Leslie Lansman

Digitalisation of content has undermined business models in many industries while allowing new business models and value chains to emerge. Copyright products and data-flows are at the centre of this new economy, yet surprisingly little is known about how copyright is enforced through the courts. Some analysis exists for US courts (Siegelman and Waldfogel, 1999, Cotropia and Gibson, 2014) and Helmers, Lefouili & McDonagh (2015) show that the majority of IP cases filed at the UK’s High Court (HC) are related to copyright. The dearth of empirical research is due to a lack of publicly available data: digitalisation is reaching the courts service slowly, and the notion that legal practice can be usefully analysed with statistical methods is still relatively new (Golden et al., 2014, Cremers et al., 2013). This project, which was undertaken during 2015-17, collected data on copyright cases filed during 2009-2015. The outputs include a CREATe report, a blogpost and, in due course, the anonymised dataset, which will be made publicly available to copyright researchers.

The central difficulty of conducting empirical research into copyright litigation in England & Wales is that the English Court filing records are held by HMCTS and very little is published about the nature of claims that never make it to court. Moreover, even for cases which reach a final judgment, not all cases reach BAIILI (Britain and Ireland’s primary resource for accessible legal judgments). This gap in our knowledge poses problems: without knowing the extent of copyright litigation, we cannot rationally discuss litigation’s wider effect on the creative economy; without knowing the types of disputes that take place, we are not in a position to judge whether copyright enforcement tends to be limited to certain areas (music, film etc.) or whether it is more widespread; and without knowing the categories of litigants (individuals, limited companies, collecting societies etc.) we cannot know whether the enforcement system works to ensure all copyright holders have access to justice.

In 2015 CREATe agreed to facilitate this project to develop a dataset containing the details of all court cases on copyright heard at the High Court (HC) during 2009-2015 and at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) from the same period, 2009-2015. The project team aimed to collect data on copyright litigation from the paper records held at the HC and IPEC and to provide analysis of emerging trends.

Project Outputs
Upon completion of data collection we provided a CREATe report and blog post describing the current state of copyright litigation at the English High Court (HC) and Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC), including characterization of the nature of copyright cases being heard, including emerging trends such as the growing range of sports-related copyright cases. The full anonymised dataset, accessible to copyright researchers, will be provided in due course.