Thursday, May 20, 2004


On 6 May I ran a piece about copyright, and I took the line that, if ever your copyright was breached, you would be well advised to think carefully before resorting the law to put right this dastardly wrong. But the latest edition of the Sunday Times carried a short para about a man who managed to get justice done without much fuss at all.

What happened was this. Marc Morris teaches history at Oxford. Last year he was the front man on a Channel 4 series about castles. And the other evening he was watching a BBC4 pragramme about a similar topic. It seemed to Marc, as he sat there in front of the TV, that some of the BBC script was, not too put to fine a point on it, lifted from his Channel 4 script.

The Sunday Times says politely that the offended historian 'contacted the BBC.' And, to avoid possible legal action, the BBC has promptly made eight edits to the script of the offending programme before it receives any further transmission.

So, that's all you have to do then, is it? When you find that someone has ripped off some of your work, you just write a polite letter, pointing this out, and the company concerned immediately apologises, raps the knuckles of the bloke who did the thievery, and puts things right pronto. That's the way it works, is it?

Er, well, no. Actually it isn't always that simple. I suspect that it only works that way if you're a distinguished historian at Oxford. Though Cambridge might do, at a pinch.

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