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Monday, 20 October 2003

CAN COPYRIGHT CONSPIRATOR CLAIM HE TOO WAS THE VICTIM OF A CONSPIRACY?

Lexis-Nexis’ All England Direct subscription service has thrown up an unusual case which reflects the interplay between criminal and civil provisions for dealing with copyright infringement. In Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd and others v Stewart and another (16 October 2003) Stuart was involved in selling counterfeit CDs from a stall at a car boot sale. The sale site managers notified the police and trading standards officers, whose investigation resulted in the discovery at Stuart’s stall of CD cases and counterfeit CDs bearing the hand-written names of artists and album titles. At Stuart’s home they found blank CDs, printed copies of artwork requiring cutting to fit CD cases, a notebook containing orders and CD duplicating equipment. Along with others Stuart was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the producers of the recordings. In subsequent civil proceedings Sony sought summary judgment, seeking an inquiry as to damages. Section 11(2) of the Civil Evidence Act 1968 provided that, in civil proceedings in which a person had been proved to have been convicted of an offence, he should be taken to have committed that offence unless the contrary was proved. Stuart contended that he had himself been the victim of a conspiracy to procure his conviction.

In the Chancery Division, Sir Donald Rattee gave summary judgment in favour of Sony since there was no real prospect that Stuart would be able to discharge the burden of proof imposed upon him by s 11(2) of the 1968 Act. Apart from the presumption raised by s 11, the evidence of material found in his possession was such that an overwhelmingly clear inference could be drawn that Stuart had infringed Sony’s rights.

The IPKat notes that the burden of proof in criminal proceedings, where conviction depends upon proof “beyond reasonable doubt” is very much heavier than in civil proceedings, where proof need only be established on a “balance of probabilities”. This being the case, if Stuart could not escape prosecution, the odds of his persuading a civil judge that he had an arguable defence would appear to be very long indeed.

Car boot sale information here, here and here
Does crime pay? Click here, here and here to find out


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