Crash course in copyright ownership and breach of contract

Case: Bristol Groundschool Ltd v Intelligent Data Capture Ltd & Ors [2014] EWHC 2145 (ch), 2 July 2014

An aviation company specialising in training commercial pilots has been partly successful in an infringement of copyright and breach of contract claim and counterclaim brought in the High Court against a supplier of training materials.  As part of his ruling, the Judge considered the agreement entered into between the parties and noted that the aviation company owned most of the copyrights in the artwork contained in the electronic training materials, which the supplier had then reproduced for their own business interests.  He also found that two of the individual parties defending the claim were liable as joint tortfeasors as they had been responsible for the day to day operations of the companies.

The supplier was also held to be liable for breach of contract due to the lack of technical support offered to students who had received the training materials and by threatening to not fulfil its obligations under the existing agreement unless new terms were agreed.

Turning to the counterclaim it was noted that the aviation company had secretly downloaded materials of the supplier, which was deemed to be commercially unacceptable and constituted copyright infringement particularly as the agreement contained an implied duty of good faith.  However, due to extenuating circumstances and the fact the downloaded material had only been used for limited purposes, and only minimal financial detriment had been caused to the supplier, the Judge held this did not amount to a repudiation of the contract and did not give a defence to the breach of contract claim brought against the supplier.