Finding the bankrupt’s copyright—a right old warriors’ dance

Finding the bankrupt’s copyright—a right old warriors’ dance

Stuart Adair, a barrister at XXIV Old Buildings, takes a look at some of the common issues surrounding the application of copyright law to bankruptcy situations, in light of the recent case of Cole v Howlett.

Original news

Cole v Howlett  [2015] EWHC 1697 (Ch), [2015] All ER (D) 178 (Jun)

The claimant issued proceedings against the defendants, alleging copyright infringement of his music sample of the drum part of ‘Warriors Dance’, released on the album ‘Invaders Must Die’ by the Prodigy. He sought permission to amend his claim form and particulars of claim to plead an assignment of the causes in action to him from the Official Receiver (OR) of his bankruptcy estate and, thereby, properly constitute the claim. The Chancery Division, in allowing the application, held that it was disproportionate, since the defect had been cured, to deprive the claimant of his right to have the issue ventilated in court.

What was the background to the case?

The claimant is a musician, composer and producer. In these proceedings he claims to be entitled to be regarded as the author and owner of the copyright in the music and lyrics of a musical composition called ‘Let the Warriors Dance’. He claims that his rights in that composition have been infringed by the defendants, the members of the band ‘the Prodigy’, the publishers of the composition and the recording company.

The claim was listed to come on for trial on 21 April 2015. However, on 9 April 2015 the defendants’ solicitors wrote to the claimant’s solicitors pointing out that the claimant had been adjudged bankrupt on 14 December 1990 and that all his rights in ‘Let the Warriors Dance’ would have vested in his trustee in bankruptcy. It necessarily followed that the claimant had no right to bring the claim.

On the first day of the trial the claimant applied to Mr Justice Peter Smith for the adjournment of the trial and permission to

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