In a ruling which could have wide implications for both the film and television industries, Channel 4 won the right to show excerpts from the director Stanley Kubrick's award-winning vision of a future world of murderous adolescents in a decaying society.
But film industry lawyers said the ruling could pave the way for television companies to show lengthy excerpts from films without apparently breaching copyright, the filmmakers' protection.
Asked to comment, David Puttnam, the leading film maker, said: 'I think the ruling is tragic. What it illustrates is the desperate need for all-industry agreement on this issue, because if over-loosely interpreted it could become a thieves' charter.'
The 1971 film, based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, has not been seen legally in Britain since 1973, when it was banned by Kubrick amid fears that it was encouraging violence.
It was, however, shown illegally earlier this year by the Scala cinema in London. The proprietors were subsequently fined for screening the film without a licence.
Under the 'fair dealing' clause of copyright law, which allows screenings for the purposes of reviewing a work, the appeal court ruled that viewers will now be able to see 12 clips from the film in the arts documentary 'Forbidden Fruit', to be shown on Channel 4's Without Walls. Channel 4 will show a total of 9 minutes and 57 seconds of A Clockwork Orange - nearly 10 per cent of the film.
One industry lawyer said: 'This has wide implications because there is no statutory definition of how much of a film can be shown under 'fair dealing' before breaching copyright.'
But Waldemar Januszczak, Channel 4's commissioning editor for arts programmes, said suggestions that unscrupulous companies could show extracts without paying for them was 'scaremongering'.
'You could not possibly use the 'fair dealing' argument unless you were presenting serious review and comment. It only has implications for serious arts and review programmes.'
The programme was originally due to be shown on 5 October, but Time Warner, the film's distributor, was granted an injunction late that day, on the basis that the intention to show the clips constituted a breach of the copyright.
Warner had alleged that the Channel 4 programme could not be for the purpose of criticism and review because the film had not been shown in Britain for 20 years.
It further argued that the clips were all scenes of violence and did not accurately represent the film as a whole, and were part of a campaign to challenge Warner's decision to withdraw the film.
But Lord Justice Neill, sitting with Lords Justices Farquharson and Henry, said Warner had not demonstrated 'with sufficient clarity' that it had a case for an injunction.Reuse content