Quoting uk court judgements (and statements to media)

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Quoting uk court judgements (and statements to media)

Post by curious1 »

Hi all, I have done some online searching but am still unsure about this.

I am currently writing a nonfiction book (my first) and want to quote some extracts from UK court judgements (High Court and Court of Appeal) relating to one of the individuals concerned. These are public judgements and were not secret or subject to any media/reporting ban etc.

1) Can I quote extracts (say several pages worth IN TOTAL [from many dozens or even 100+ pages] without permission? They would clearly be shown as quotes/extracts.
2) Can I quote medical information if discussed in the judgement and already in public domain?
3) The person made several statements to assembled media outside the court that was quoted in newspapers at the time, can I also quote this without permission? Or does a stricter law apply to book writers than media?

Hope someone can help!
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Post by AndyJ »

Hi curious1,

UK court proceedings and judgments.
Section 45 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 permits the reporting of judicial proceedings without infringing copyright:
45 Parliamentary and judicial proceedings.
(1) Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings.
(2) Copyright is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of reporting such proceedings; but this shall not be construed as authorising the copying of a work which is itself a published report of the proceedings.
However you should note the final part of subsection (2). Many transcripts of judgements are prepared by third parties and you therefore need to check what copyright they attach to their reports (eg here for BAILII and here for LexisNexis). Furthermore, a report in a newspaper may well be a summary of what was said or admitted in evidence and so would almost certainly be exempt from the provisions of section 45. (cf the case of Walter v Lane)
If something, say medical details, has been included in a judgment and the judgment has been legitimately released, then it should be safe to quote those details, subject to the proviso given above. However great care needs to exercised with all sensitive information, to ensure that it has been legitimately placed in the public domain. For instance in a number of sensitive cases before the family courts recently, commentators and others, such as John Hemming MP, have released private information such as the names of defendants in defiance of the court. In Mr Hemmings's case he used Parliamentary privilege to do this in what many feel was a wholly inappropriate manner. Bear in mind that if you get this aspect wrong, you could be in contempt of court.
You should certainly quote your sources, both because it is academically more rigorous but also because you may also be able to claim your use is fair dealing under section 29 or 30 of the CDPA 1988:
30 Criticism, review and news reporting.
(1) Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement and provided that the work has been made available to the public.
(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) a work has been made available to the public if it has been made available by any means, including—
  • (a) the issue of copies to the public;
    (b) making the work available by means of an electronic retrieval system;
    (c) the rental or lending of copies of the work to the public;
    (d) the performance, exhibition, playing or showing of the work in public;
    (e) the communication to the public of the work,
    but in determining generally for the purposes of that subsection whether a work has been made available to the public no account shall be taken of any unauthorised act.
(2) Fair dealing with a work (other than a photograph) for the purpose of reporting current events does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that (subject to subsection (3)) it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.
(3) No acknowledgement is required in connection with the reporting of current events by means of a sound recording, film or broadcast where this would be impossible for reasons of practicality or otherwise
This could be particularly useful where you did wish to briefly quote a source such as a newspaper.
Quoting your sources also allows your reader the opportunity to evaluate the trustworthiness of the source.
Statements made outside court.
A verbal statement per se is not protected by copyright unless or until it has been recorded in some fixed manner. Therefore if you are present when such remarks are made, your recording of them will not infringe any other recordings made at the same time. However if your source for the remarks is someone else's record of them then you need to respect their copyright. In general such sources will tend to be newspaper, news agencies or TV/radio reports, and so long as you are sparing in your quotation and attribute your source, s 29 or 30 should work in your favour. However more extensive re-cycling of newspaper sources may require a licence from the Newspaper Licensing Agency.
One final point. Although you did not raise the matter, you may wish to be aware that court judgments are made up, broadly speaking, of two parts: findings and what are known as obiter dicta. Only the finding has any precedential value for other courts, or indeed the public. Obiter dicta tend to include explanations of how the court evaluated the evidence, the law as it applies to the case and any other precedents which were taken into account in reaching the finding. These matters are generally case-specific and so have no binding effect on future judgements in general.

Addendum. You mentioned proceedings in the Court of Appeal. These, like those of the Supreme Court, are now being released on video and should be available via places like Youtube. If a case you are interested in appears amongst these publically available sources, then you can extract and transcribe the parts you require knowing that they form part of the official record and thus fall firmly within s45.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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Post by curious1 »


Thanks so much for all of this information. Extremely helpful.

The statements made to assembled press; I have seen video footage and quotes from multiple media sources of the same statement being read out outside the court, so had thought a statement like "Reading from a statement to the assembled press outside the court, XX said 'xxxxxx xxx'" would be enough without for example having to add "as quoted by X-newspaper". I now wonder if I better do this after all!

The court info is very useful - thanks again!
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