CBS Songs Ltd and Others v Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc and Another


12 May 1988


Copyright Act 1956, s. 21(3)


authorisation; copying equipment; joint infringers


Sydney Kentridge, James Munby, Robert Alexander, Geoffrey Hobbs, Michael Fysh


Hamlin Slowe; Herbert Smith & Co; Alsop Wilkinson


Lords Keith, Templeman, Griffiths, Oliver and Jauncey


House of Lords


[1987] 2 WLR 1191


The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant offended s.21(3) Copyright Act 1956 by manufacturing, advertising and offering for sale equipments for high-speed recording of pre-recorded cassettes onto blank tapes and therefore authorised the public to infringe their copyrights. They also claimed that the defendants were joint infringers with the public.


Under s.21(3) Copyright Act 1956, an authorisation is a grant of the right to do an act. The defendant conferred the power to copy but did not grant the right to copy, therefore did not authorise the infringement. Joint infringers were two or more persons who acted in concert with one another pursuant to common design in the infringement. In this case there was no common design.

Note that the Copyright Act 1956 has now been repealed and replaced by the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. See also MCA Records Inc v Charly Records Ltd [2002] FSR. 26.

Reviewed 30 November 2008