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the Pale

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Who owns the copyright?

Classic Rock Jane Coyle at 'Lawdit Reading Room', 6 March 2009

Joint authorship

Where more than one person has created a work, the work may be classed as a work of joint authorship if the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other authors.

If it is, two or more separate works will exist. Each person claiming authorship will need to have expended sufficient skill and labour to be classed as an author under the CDPA. In general, each joint author has the same rights as a sole author, except that licensing or assignment requires the consent of all joint authors.

In the high-profile case of Matthew Fisher v (1) Gary Brooker (2) Onward Music Limited 2006 EWHC 3239 (ch), 20 December 2006, concerning ownership of the musical copyright in the song, A Whiter Shade of Pale, the High Court accepted that the organist's solo was sufficiently different from the pianist's composition as to qualify as an original contribution to the work. As a result, the court held that the organist was entitled to a share in the ownership of the musical copyright in the work.

On appeal the defendants were partially successful: the Court of Appeal held that although the trial judge had been correct to grant a declaration as to the organist's co-authorship of the work, his excessive and inexcusable delay before bringing a claim, and his acquiescing in the defendants' commercial exploitation of the work, made it unjust that he should succeed in his claims to a joint interest in the work or to have the implied licence for the respondents to exploit it.

Jane Coyle is a trainee solicitor at Lawdit and can be contacted at

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