Columbia Pictures Industries Inc v Robinson: ChD 1986

The plaintiff had obtained an Anton Piller order against a defendant whose business consisted almost entirely in the manufacture and sale of pirated videos.
Held: The injunction had been obtained for an improper purpose and without full disclosure. It was wrong in principle to grant an injunction, the scope of which the defendants could not know and could not discover.
There was no provision in the Copyright Act 1956 for presumptions as to the subsistence of copyright and its ownership to arise from labels or marks fixed to films. Injunctions were granted in relation to copyrights to which it had been established in the action that existing members were entitled.
Scott J considered the request for an injunction to protect the plaintiff’s intellectual property: ‘In the circumstances, I have no doubt but that the plaintiffs have established in this case that they are entitled to the protection of an injunction.
Counsel, however, has sought on the plaintiffs’ behalf an injunction of a very great breadth. He has sought an injunction restraining the defendants from knowingly infringing copyright in any film for the time belonging to any of the plaintiffs (meaning any member of the MPAA besides the named plaintiffs) or in respect of which any of them is for the time being the exclusive licensee.
It would be impossible for the defendants to know what films were covered by an injunction in that form. In my judgment it would be wrong in principle to grant an injunction the scope of which the defendants subject to it could not know and could not discover. Experience in this litigation has underlined the very great difficulty that is often experienced in ascertaining in whom copyright or exclusive rights in a particular film are for the time being vested.
I am prepared to grant an injunction protecting the copyright or exclusive rights of any of the present plaintiffs in the films in respect of which their respective titles have been established in this action. I am not prepared to extend this protection to companies who are not plaintiffs, that is to say to future MPAA members. Nor am I prepared to extend this protection to cover other films. I am, however, willing to give the present plaintiffs or any of them liberty to apply from time to time on notice to the defendants to extend the injunction to other films. In order to obtain that extension, I contemplate that the applicant would have to satisfy the court, first, that it had copyright or exclusive rights in the film or films in question and, second, either that it had applied to the defendants for suitable undertakings which had not been given, or that for some reason undertakings by the defendants would not be sufficient. The costs of any such application would of course depend on the circumstances of that application.’
Scott J declined to order an inquiry into damages under the plaintiff’s undertaking because the losses had been incurred in a business which was ‘illicit’ albeit not criminal under the law as it then stood.
A solicitor making an ex parte application for an Anton Piller order has a strict duty to m ake full and frank disclosure of all relevant matters, and must not act oppressivley in the execution of the order. In case of a breach of these obligations, the remedy was in damages, not necessarily in the removal of the order. The court considered the use of ex parte applications: ‘It is a fundamental principle of civil jurisprudence in this country that citizens are not to be deprived of their property by judicial or quasi-judicial order without a fair hearing’ and ‘what is to be said of the Anton Piller procedure which, on a regular and institutionalised basis, is depriving citizens of their property and closing down their businesses by orders made ex parte, on applications of which they know nothing and at which they cannot be heard, by orders which they are forced . . to obey, even if wrongly made?’
Scott J
[1987] Ch 38, [1986] 3 WLR 542, [1986] FSR 367, [1986] 3 All ER 338
Copyright Act 1956
England and Wales
Cited by:
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CitedTwentieth Century Fox Film Corp and Others v British Telecommunications Plc ChD 28-Jul-2011
The claimant rights holders sought an order to require the defendant broadband internet provider to deny access to its users to websites which were said to facilitate the distribution of infringing copies of their films. An earlier judgment had . .
CitedLes Laboratoires Servier and Another v Apotex Inc and Others SC 29-Oct-2014
Ex turpi causa explained
The parties had disputed the validity a patent and the production of infringing preparations. The english patent had failed and damages were to be awarded, but a Canadian patent remained the defendant now challenged the calculation of damages for . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 07 August 2021; Ref: scu.280408

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