UCL Faculty of Laws


Copyright and Design, The Law of (LAWS0281)

This module examines the law of copyright considering significant doctrinal and normative problems.

In the digital age, copyright and design law are increasingly important not only because of the economic significance of the industries that they support, but also because of their profound impact on the shaping of our cultural landscape.

The aim of this module is to give students a detailed understanding of the law of copyright in the United Kingdom and the European Union in relation to subject matter such as books, films, computer software, musical works, artistic works and performances. We examine issues and difficulties relating to the subsistence of copyright, as well as its infringement and enforcement. Throughout the module we engage with the challenges presented by the digital age. There is also a component on the law of designs, which students may complete via independent study.

This module will enable students to critically assess and interpret relevant case law, legislation and academic literature in the field. Students will also learn how to apply their knowledge to legal problems and to engage with significant normative debates in this area.

Module Syllabus

Topics include:
•    Introduction (history, international & EU context)
•    Justifications and philosophical underpinning of copyright law
•    Basic requirements for copyright subsistence (subject matter, threshold for protection, qualification and duration of protection) as well as the Copyright/Design law overlap
•    Authorship, joint authorship & ownership (including ownership of works created by employees)
•    Copyright Infringement (basic requirements, acts of infringement, the idea/expression dichotomy)
•    Copyright Exceptions/Defences
•    Moral Rights (subsistence and infringement)
•    UK and EU design law (by independent study)
•    Revision

Recommended Materials

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminery Reading

There is no required preliminary reading. The following resources might be consulted for a sense of the relevant debates:
•    The copyright chapters in Jacob, Alexander & Fisher, Guidebook to Intellectual Property, (Hart Publishing, 2013) could be used as an introductory guide. Note that there have been significant changes in the law since this book’s publication. 
•    For an outline of theoretical justifications: Spence, ‘Justifying Copyright’ in McClean and Schubert (eds), Dear Images: Art, Copyright and Culture (Manchester, Ridinghouse, 2002), 389-403. 
•    Robert Merges, Justifying Copyright (Harvard University Press, 2011) introduces some topical issues.

Key information

Module details
Credit value:22.5 credits (225 learning hours)
Convenor:Matt Fisher
Other Teachers:None
Teaching Delivery:Face to Face Seminar (note: not hybrid-equipped in term 2)
Who may enrol:LLM Students Only
Must not be taken with:None
Qualifying module for:

LLM in Intellectual Property Law

Practice Assessment:TBD
Final Assessment:3,000 Word Essay (100%)