City Research Online

Copyright Accidents

Goold, P. & Bracha, O. (2016). Copyright Accidents. Boston University Law Review, 96(3), pp. 1025-1091.


Palgrave Macmillan is a highly respected international publisher of academic texts. But strangely, many of their books start with an apology. Open one of their recently published books and within the first pages you are likely to find the following statement: “While every care has been taken to trace and acknowledge copyright, the publishers tender their apologies for any accidental infringement where copyright has proved untraceable.” In theory, Palgrave should always obtain permission before printing copyrighted material, but in practice this is difficult. Frequently they wish to use some expressive material, but it is not clear who owns the rights or even if the work is protected by copyright at all. In these cases, they take “every care” to get the permission and avoid infringement but still sometimes accidents happen and they mistakenly print copyrighted material without authorization. Because copyright holds them responsible for these accidents regardless of how much they tried to prevent them, they offer this boilerplate apology up front. But this raises the question: Should they be legally responsible for all of these accidental infringements? The usual rule in tort law is you are only liable for accidents if you were negligent. Run someone over in your car and break their neck, spill toxic waste in a town center, or let your dog bite a neighbor, and you are only liable if you failed to take “reasonable care” to prevent the accident. So what’s so different about copyright accidents?

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: K Law
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
SWORD Depositor:
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