Hot News – Issue 3

Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations: The prospect of selling digital content has made the EU Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases a vital piece of legislation for all sectors of the publishing, advertising and audio-visual industries. The Directive is due to be implemented by the UK by January 1 1998. A draft Statutory Instrument – ‘The Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997’ – has now been published together with a Consultative Document. From the implementation of the directive, databases will be treated as a literary work for copyright purposes and a new 15 year ‘database right’ will be created. The Government is aiming to meet the January 1 1998 deadline and hopes to lay the Regulations before Parliament in November. So now is the time to assess the Regulations’ practical implications for your business (including their effect on the sale or purchase of digital content and terms and conditions of its use). This will be one of our featured topics in our November update.

New PACT/MU Agreement: the new PACT (Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television)/MU (Musicians Union) Agreement (which governs the inclusion of the music of MU members in production) is in force as of Monday 13 October 1997. The agreement introduces an increase in fees for musicians and a re-structuring of rights packages for producers. Notwithstanding this, there is an agreement between PACT and the MU that if arrangements have been put in place with fixers prior to 13 October but recording takes place after this date, then the terms of the pre-existing (October 1993 revised February 1996) Agreement can apply. Fixers are asked to notify the MU of any such productions and PACT members are asked to notify PIRS (Producers Industrial Relations Services) accordingly.

UK Government gets connected: the UK government has announced plans for a new web site which will enable government transactions to be conducted electronically (eventually including the payment of taxes, television licences and passport applications). The system, which is to be unveiled in its initial form in November, will allow electronic signatures to authorise payments. The aim is to have 25% of government business conducted electronically by 2002.

The government also has plans to link every school to an Internet-based ‘national grid for learning’ within five years. The scheme will equip Britain’s 32,000 schools with computers and provide for high-speed connections to the grid and low call charges. It is expected that the grid will also act as a showcase for the UK’s educational software industry.

Liability for Club Committees: a recent case has emphasised the vulnerability of committee members acting as trustees for the club’s members. (Marston Thompson & Evershed PLC -v- Bend and others).

Four trustees of a rugby club signed a mortgage of the club’s property that was held in their names as trustees. The club failed to pay off the debt and the trustees were informed that they were personally liable for the debt. The court held that they were indeed personally liable. To avoid personal exposure, an express statement is required that they have limited liability.

Therefore club trustees should always ensure that when they enter into a contract on behalf of their club, the contract contain a proviso limiting their liability to the total club assets under their control (from time to time). It should also deny creditors any right to sue them personally for any shortfall. If this is not possible, the trustees should obtain an indemnity from all the members of the club (or its management committee).

Advocate-General supports same rights for same-sex couples: The Advocate-General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued his opinion in the case of Grant -v- South West Trains (SWT). He has accepted Lisa Grant’s argument that her employer, SWT, has discriminated against her on the grounds of her gender by refusing her female partner the same travel benefits routinely accorded to heterosexual partners. The Advocate-General decided that SWT’s policy amounted to sexual discrimination because it fell foul of the requirement for men and women to receive equal pay for equal work; had Lisa Grant been a male employee living with a woman, her effective pay – taking into account the travel benefits – would have been higher.

The ECJ does not have to follow this opinion when it gives its full decision (expected at the end of the year) but its record shows that it does so in 85% of cases.

Reminder on Restoration of Copyright in the US: Further to our Hot News article in January 1997 (available in the Archive), you only have until the end of this year to file your notice of intent to enforce at the US Copyright Office. For more information look at the Copyright Office on www.copyright.gov.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.