April 17, 2008
BBC wins Doctor Who copyright case
High Court exterminates publishers' claims of infringement over Dalek book
BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm, has successfully defended a copyright infringement claim brought against it over a book it had published on Doctor Who’s famous enemies, the Daleks.
Publishers JHP, whose managing director Paul Fishman was the son of a friend of Dalek creator the late Terry Nation, claimed that they owned the copyright in a number of Dalek books, and that a new book about the characters, published by BBC Worldwide, infringed that copyright.
Fishman had approached the BBC about new material in 2001 but the parties had ceased working together before ‘The Dalek Survival Guide’ was written.
Dismissing the claim, Mr Justice Norris ruled that it was “inherently improbable” that Nation would have assigned the copyright to JHP, and that it was instead the exclusive licensee of the copyright in a number of his books. The BBC, however, would have had an estoppel defence to any claim by Nation or his estate, and accordingly had that defence against JHP as exclusive licensee. In any event, the judge held, there had not been copying of a substantial part.