Choppy Waters? Copyright infringement claims in a time of economic hardship:

Hi all,

I hope everyone is well and has been making the most of our summer sunshine!

I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the start of the new academic year and to welcoming our students back to campus. It’s one of the best times in the University calendar, marking the start of an exciting new journey for many and, I hope, an eagerly awaited return from a well-earned break for others.

Without wishing to take away from what is otherwise a wonderful occasion, I’m sure many of you cannot have failed to notice how this will be taking place against a backdrop of increasingly unhappy news about the global economic outlook.

Suffice to say, it’s been a bit grim. No one is quite yet sure exactly what will happen, but there is already talk of recession and those of us with memories of 2008 will no doubt be asking ourselves “haven’t we been here before?!”.

At this point, you might also be thinking, “what’s any of this got to do with copyright?” Well, it’s a very good question and the answer is that it’s to do with building awareness; specifically, awareness around copyright infringement and how economic turbulence can incentivise a more proactive approach to the protection of creative works. It’s also about offering advice on how to navigate these choppy waters so you can continue to create with confidence. Forewarned is forearmed!

The issue:

Creative works such as books, photographs, music and film are all protected by copyright automatically when written down, recorded or saved. These protections provide the copyright owner the right to decide what you, as a user, are allowed to do with the protected materials. Crucially, this system provides the copyright owner with means to protect the monetary value in their created works.

It follows that in times of economic hardship, when money becomes tight, the incentive for copyright owners to ensure that their commercial interests are defended and enforced becomes even greater. This could mean we start to see attempts by copyright owners to enforce their rights increase.

What’s the risk?

If you copy or share someone else’s copyright works without their permission (in the form of a licence) and your activity is not covered by a copyright exception, you’ll infringe their copyright.

Though it is far from guaranteed that every case of infringement will be discovered and acted upon, by using a protected work without permission or, when relying on exceptions to copyright, in a way that is not defensible as fair dealing, you run the risk of action being taken against you, and or the university*.

“What do I do if someone contacts me about infringement?”

If you infringe someone else’s copyright, both you and the University may be liable in the event of legal action. This is the case even if you didn’t realise that what you had done was an infringement of copyright.

Legal action itself is perhaps the most extreme course of action that a copyright owner may take, and it is more likely that other measures may be pursued first – among the most common of which are “Take Down Notices”. The University has a robust process in place designed to handle requests of this nature, the details of which can be found here.

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be the copyright owner of a work, or a representative/agent acting on their behalf, asking for money or for the University to take action, contact for support. Sometimes claims may be made frivolously, so there’s no need to panic just because you’ve been contacted by a rights holder, but you should act quickly to minimise any financial and reputational risk.

“That still sounds stressful! How can I avoid that?”:

Perhaps the best thing you can do to avoid the aggravation caused by an infringement claim, frivolous or otherwise, is to be informed. The University’s guidance on copyright is a great place to start. Within the guidance is plenty of advice on how to act responsibly and legally when it comes to copyright and if you are ever unsure, the copyright support team at Kent is always ready to help with any questions you might have.

Helpful tips and things to bear in mind:

  • The University has lots and lots of really helpful guidance on copyright including some specifically tailored to students and researchers and well as resource suggestions for finding and sharing content online.
  • Seek to act fairly when making use of copyright protected works and be aware of risk – if you need help making an assessment on if a use is fair or what risks might be involved, contact
  • If you are contacted by someone claiming an infringement of their copyright, don’t panic but do make sure to reach out for advice quickly.
  • Remember, the copyright team at Kent is always here to support you!


*There is also an element of risk involved when using a protected work under an exception to copyright – more information about this can be found within the guidance linked above.

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