When an iPhone App Infringes Copyright


A television production company noticed that audio-clips from its popular TV show were being used in a new iPhone app called “Chopper Soundboard”. (Follow-up story here) While this was an Australian company, the issue is also a common one in both Canada and the US, as owners of copyright content notice that iPhone and iPad developers will “borrow” content – images, video, audio – for use in their apps.

For the copyright owner, the practical question is usually resolved when the app is removed from the iTunes store. A relatively easy remedy, but one that does not address the copyright issues.

The main legal question – which has not yet been settled in court – is who has responsibility for the infringement?  Copyright owners have launched litigation against Apple (for example, the Australian production company Jigsaw Entertainment has made noises about a lawsuit against Apple; photographer Louie Psihoyos has sued Apple in the US for copyright infringement arising out of an iPhone app), and largely left the developers out of their cross-hairs.  However, the Agreement that developers sign with Apple is clear that developers take on the liability in the event their app infringes someone else’s copyright.

Developers: Be aware of the scope of your liability with Apple, and review the agreements with your own customers. Take care when collecting content for your app. Original or properly-licensed content will reduce risks of future copyright issues.

Copyright owners: If content is being used without authorization, get advice on the options you have for remedies under the Copyright Act.

Calgary – 11:30 MT

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