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Limitation Periods and Copyright Infringement

Stay Vigilant: Limitation Periods and Copyright Infringement

November 1, 2011

Copyright offers crucial protection to individuals and businesses alike enabling them to own and exploit their creative works. This might include photographs, articles, software, website designs, films, music and a range of other forms of creative expression. Copyright law allows authors to claim compensation when their work is copied without authorisation, but a critical issue which can be overlooked by less vigilant creatives is a limitation on the time period during which claims can be made.

Limitation periods control the length of time a claimant has to bring legal action, for example following an infringement of their copyright, and these periods vary from country to country. In the UK, the relevant period is 6 years from the date on which the cause of action accrued for copyright infringement. The upshot of this is that claims for compensation will only stretch back 6 years – so if you wrote a book in 2003, and it was copied and resold without your permission until the end of 2005, by the end of this year it would no longer be possible to bring a claim for the profits made from that infringement. If the infringement continues, compensation will only be available in relation to a rolling 6 year period. What is important is to remain vigilant. Services like Copyscape allow you to scan the web for reproductions of your content; for images the equivalent is available through Google Similar Image Search, or Tineye; but for works sold offline, it may be less straightforward.