Network: Copyright cases from Washington to Shetland

Electronic publishing is already leading litigation into previously uncharted territory. Resorting to the courts, however, is not the simple solution it may initially seem. Test cases are furthest ahead in the US, where a number of individuals and organisations are testing current copyright and trademark law.

One, involving 11 freelancers, led by Jonathan Tasini, US National Writers' Union president, comes to trial this autumn. The group is accusing a number of media organisations - including the publishers of the New York Times, Newsday and Sports Illustrated - of the unauthorised sale of their articles via online databases and CD-Rom.

Another is a case against Total News Inc lodged by the Washington Post and several other news providers, including CNN, Dow Jones, Reuters and Time Life.

Total News provides links to other organisations' news pages by frames that allow Web pages to be split into multiple windows which can be operated independently. One effect of this is that a frame can be used to create a window remaining on-screen while other sites are accessed.

This means the originator's frame, which might carry advertising, could be obscured and, as a result, devalued, the plaintiffs claim. The effect of such cases in the UK, however, can only be negligible, says Clive Thorne, intellectual property partner at solicitors Denton Hall.

"Any copyright or trademark problems in the UK would be determined by English principle under English law," he explains. A number of differences exist between the US and UK definitions of what constitutes copyright and where copyright is infringed. "We are probably not likely to see a standard approach to copyright in this area, other than through broad international conventions that exist to give general guidelines," he adds. "The detail of how these conventions are interpreted remains within national law."

Which is why British publishing attention is now focused on a test case between two electronic newspapers in Shetland, which is due to go to court in October.

This dispute dates back to November 1995, when Shetland News was launched as an online daily Internet news service. The following spring, The Shetland Times newspaper launched its own online service. The Shetland News site referred to Times stories and used hypertext links to take surfers from one to the other. The Times, however, objected, claiming that unauthorised links between Web sites were a breach of copyright.

While access to its site was free and it carried no advertising, the Times claimed that it planned to do so in the future. It claimed the News was using headlines on its site from the Times and that surfers using the News links might miss any future advertising carried by the Times on its home page.

Last December, the Scottish courts imposed a temporary court ban on the News. "The resolution will go some way towards clarifying the situation," Mr Thorne believes. "But not far enough".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions