Ludlow Music Inc v Williams & Others
Reference:  EMLR 155;  FSR 271
Court: Chancery Division
Judge: N Strauss QC
Date of judgment: 1 Oct 2000
Intellectual property - Copyright - Song lyrics - Infringement - Substantial part - Summary judgment - Remedies
Instructing Solicitors: Sheridans for the Claimants. Harbottle & Lewis for the Defendants.
The Claimants owned the copyright in a song, ‘I am the Way’. The Defendants wrote and owned the copyright in a song, ‘Jesus in a Camper Van’. Two lines of the lyrics of the Defendants’ song bore a close resemblance to the Claimants’ song. The Defendants registered the Claimants’ song at collection societies with 25% of the copyright. The Claimants claimed entitlement to all income from the composition. The Claimants applied for summary judgment.
(1) Whether summary judgment was appropriate;
(2) Whether there had been an infringement of copyright;
(3) Whether there should be damages or an account of profits, at the Claimants’ election; and
(4) Whether a permanent injunction should be granted.
There was nothing to gain by allowing the matter to go to trial. There had been copying of a substantial part, and so infringement. Issues of acquiescence required there to be a trial on remedies. The Claimants were entitled to substantial damages, possibly including exemplary damages. Although the correct approach was to start with the strong presumption that an injunction should be granted, it was at least arguable that this was an exceptional case in that the Claimants had acquiesced to a degree, appeared to only desire financial compensation and had arguably acted oppressively. The issue of injunction therefore could not be determined summarily and would have to be tried.
The subsequent trial was before Pumfrey J – see Ludlow Music In v Robbie Williams & Others (No.2). The summary judgment application was also of interest because even where an infringement may have occurred, it will be desirable to identify the extent of the infringement for the purposes of quantifying damages or the basis on which an account should be ordered.