Gimme royalties, plead litigants
This year has certainly been an interesting year for copyright stories. Regular readers of this page will be familiar with the dispute over George Harrison's 1960s back catalogue and the claim by ex-members of the Boomtown Rats against Bob Geldof for lost royalties, not to mention the announcement of Geraldine McCraughrean as the author commissioned to write the sequel to Peter Pan and thereby secure enduring benefits to the Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Not all copyright stories have concerned disputes, of course. Madonna's recently released single Hung Up will be distinctly familiar to many as it incorporates a significant part of the 1979 Abba hit Gimme Gimme Gimme. The original songwriters, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, have licensed the Material Girl's use of the track, which should be lucrative for them also. This is only the second time an Abba track has been sampled under licence.
On a more modest level, after his success in securing royalty payments for the child singers on Pink Floyd's Another brick in the Wall, royalties agent Peter Rowan has recently tracked down the members of the chorus line who sang "When the snowman brings the snow" on Wizzard's 1973 Xmas hit I wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.
All in their early 40s now, the five former pupils of Stockland Green School in Birmingham should each benefit to the tune of several hundred pounds from their collaboration with Roy Wood. Elsewhere in the world of copyright, earlier this year Hyperion records found themselves on the wrong end of a High Court ruling after their failure to credit Dr Lionel Sawkins as editor. The case revolved around an edited re-recording of works by the French composer Lalande. Sawkins's successful action for breach of copyright has left Hyperion with heavy costs. It also showed how significant additions to an original work can give rise to a new work with its own term of copyright protection.
To conclude our whistlestop tour of some of this year's most interesting copyright stories, we head to China, where Governor of California Arnold Schwarzennegger has recently travelled to lend his support to the fight against DVD piracy, which is rampant in that part of the world. Copied DVDs of Hollywood blockbusters are readily available for under £1 and an estimated 90% of all film DVDs sold in China are pirated. Hollywood claims this costs it billions of dollars, though this quantification is a little dubious.
Seasons greetings to all readers of The Journal's intellectual property page on behalf of Watson Burton and myself. Best wishes for 2006, during the early part of which, to paraphrase the Governator, we'll be back.
Matthew Rippon is a senior solicitor in the technology, ip and media team at Watson Burton LLP. He can be contacted on (0191) 244-4382 or at firstname.lastname@example.org