Rapper Dappa Dred loses copyright battle
Thursday 03 May 2012
A rapper called Dappa Dred today lost a copyright battle with film-makers when senior judges ruled that his case was not worth fighting.
Dred - who sued under the name Tony Sullivan and is also known as Rudey Soloman - claimed £800,000 damages after alleging that Bristol Film Studios breached his copyright when it uploaded a video of him performing on to internet site YouTube.
But a judge in the High Court threw out the claim after concluding that the most Dred could win was £150 - and the rapper today lost an appeal.
Three Court of Appeal judges said Deputy High Court Judge John Jarvis QC had been right in his assessment of the "likely scale of damages".
Appeal judges said Dred's failure also meant that he would have to foot the costs of the case - estimated at more than £9,000.
Lord Justice Lewison, who heard the appeal with Lord Justice Ward and Lord Justice Etherton, said Judge Jarvis had "struck out" Dred's claim at a hearing in Bristol in 2010.
"He did so, not because the claim was bound to fail, but because even if it were to succeed the costs of fighting it were out of all proportion to the amount that Mr Soloman was likely to recover," said Lord Justice Lewison, following an appeal hearing in London.
"The judge was right to approach the case on the basis that the recoverable damages were likely to be extremely modest, on the assumption that Mr Soloman established liability."
Lord Justice Etherton said Dred's case should have been heard in a lower court, such as a county court.
But he added: "Unfortunately ... Mr Soloman persisted in a grossly inflated value of his claims which ruled out those alternative routes."
Appeal judges said Dred had asked Bristol Film Studios (BFS) to make a video in which he appeared and offered the firm a share of sale profits. The firm shot a video in 2009 and uploaded it on to YouTube.
"He (Dred) did not like what he saw," said Lord Justice Lewison. "He ... complained that BFS had uploaded the video to YouTube without his consent, thereby infringing both his copyright and performance right and also infringing his moral right not to have his work subjected to degrading treatment."
BFS removed the video from YouTube five days later and deleted all copies from its system. The firm said the video had been uploaded with Dred's consent.
"Mr Soloman began proceedings in the High Court," said Lord Justice Lewison. "His claim form put the value of his claim at £800,000."
Lord Justice Lewison said Dred's case had first come before a "DJ" - legal shorthand for a District Judge - before being heard in the High Court by Judge Jarvis.
He said Dred's "causes of action" included copyright breach and "loss of chance".
The appeal judge added: "The nub of the complaint about loss of chance was that the video had damaged the marketing potential of the work and had, in some way, prevented him from making and selling more records and LPs."
Lord Justice Lewison said Dred had represented himself at the appeal hearing in April - BFS was represented by a barrister and solicitors.
"He (Dred) put an enormous amount of work into the presentation of the appeal for which we were all grateful," said the appeal judge. "He put his points fluently and clearly."
Appeal judges said Judge Jarvis had concluded that - apart from BFS staff - no more than 50 people had seen the YouTube video, he was not satisfied that Dred had made "any real claim to loss of market potential" and assessed "maximum possible" damages at £150.
They said Judge Jarvis had been right to rule that a claim which had the "potential for the recovery of so little money" would be a "disproportionate use" of court resources.
Dred had complained of "bias in the way he was questioned by the judge" - but the appeal court said there had been no "procedural irregularity".
Lawyer Mark Lewis, a partner at IBB Solicitors, said later: "This follows a trend in defamation cases where the court has not allowed cases to proceed where the costs of the proceedings would be out all of proportion to the benefit the claimant might obtain.
"It shows that the courts are prepared to use their case management powers to save claimants from themselves and to ensure that the courts' limited resources are used as effectively as possible."
He added: "In order to make a realistic assessment of possible damages people should consult a solicitor."
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