Amstrad Consumer Electronics Plc v British Phonographic Industry Limited: CA 29 Oct 1985

Amstrad sought a declaration that their retailing of equipment with two cassette decks was not unlawful. A declaration was not granted because Amstrad might be guilty of a criminal offence. However in the absence of any evidence that Amstrad was acting in concert with members of the public, the Court thought that Amstrad’s conduct was not tortious.
Held: Thought the court disagreed with the trial judge’s assertions as to et unlawfulness of Amstrad’s actions, it refused a declaration. The concept of accessories is a familiar one in the criminal law, however, no authority shows that a person can be civilly liable as ‘accessory’ to the tortious act of another (whether the relevant tort arises under the common law or by virtue of statute) unless he is actually a joint tortfeasor or has procured or incited such act (as to which see below). The relevant question is simply whether Amstrad could be regarded as joint tortfeasor with those members of the public who infringed the copyrights. . The grounds upon which they are alleged to be joint tortfeasors are that . . ‘the defendants knew before parting with each of the said machines that they were certainly (or in the alternative very probably) going to be used by members of the public to infringe one or more of the aforesaid copyrights to the damage of the copyright owners. Accepting that it has this knowledge, even this intention, does this render Amstrad itself an infringer and thus a joint tortfeasor? A long line of authority relating to patents but equally applicable to copyright, shows that it does not. There was no distinct tort of procuring or inciting infringement of copyright.


Glidewell LJ, Slade LJ, Lawton LJ


[1986] FSR 159


Copyright Act 1956


England and Wales


Appeal fromAmstrad Consumer Electronics Plc v British Phonographic Industry Limited ChD 17-Jun-1985
BPI as representative of copyright holders sought damages from the applicant saying that their two-deck cassette tape recording machines were tools for copyright infringement by deing designed to allow copying. The defendants now sought a . .

Cited by:

CitedGenerale Bank Nederland Nv (Formerly Credit Lyonnais Bank Nederland Nv) v Export Credits Guarantee Department HL 19-Feb-1999
The wrong of the servant or agent for which the master or principal is liable is one committed in the case of a servant in the course of his employment, and in the case of an agent in the course of his authority. It is fundamental to the whole . .
CitedPoint Solutions Ltd v Focus Business Solutions Ltd and Another ChD 16-Dec-2005
It was claimed that the defendant’s computer software infringed the copyright in software owned by the claimant. A declaration was sought beacause of allegations that assertions about infringement had been made to third parties.
Held: The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property, Torts – Other

Updated: 29 May 2022; Ref: scu.183579