Hubbard v Vosper: CA 1971

Claims of infringement were made as to copyright works being various works about Scientology. Extracts had appeared in the defendant’s book which was critical of the cult. It was submitted by the plaintiff that the fair dealing section applied only to criticism of the work, not of the doctrine or philosophy underlying it.
Held: The court did not accept this submission. Lord Denning MR said: ‘I do not think that this proviso is confined as narrowly as Mr Pain submits. A literary work consists, not only of the literary style, but also of the thoughts underlying it, as expressed in the words. Under the defence of ‘fair dealing’ both can be criticised. Mr Vosper is entitled to criticise not only the literary style, but also the doctrine or philosophy of Mr Hubbard as expounded in the books.’ It was not fair dealing for a rival ‘to take copyright material and use it to his own benefit’.
As to the decision in British Oxygen: ‘I am afraid I cannot go all the way with those words of Romer J. Although a literary work may not be published to the world at large, it may, however, be circulated to such a wide circle that it is ‘fair dealing’ to criticise it publicly in a newspaper or elsewhere. This happens sometimes when a company sends a circular to the whole body of shareholders. It may be of such general interest that it is quite legitimate for a newspaper to make quotations from it, and to criticise them – or review them – without thereby being guilty of infringing copyright. The newspaper must, of course, be careful not to fall foul of the law of libel. So also here, these bulletins and letters may have been so widely circulated that it was perfectly ‘fair dealing’ for Mr Vosper to take extracts from them and criticise them in his book.’
The court refused to grant an interlocutory injunction restraining breach of confidence or breach of copyright: ‘But here, although Mr Hubbard owns the copyright, nevertheless, Mr Vosper has a defence of fair dealing: and although Mr Hubbard may possess confidential information, nevertheless, Mr Vosper has a defence of public interest. These defences are such that he should be permitted to go ahead with the publication. If what he says is true, it is only right that the dangers of this cult should be exposed. We never restrain a defendant in a libel action who says he is going to justify. So in copyright action, we ought not to restrain a defendant who has a reasonable defence of fair dealing. Nor in an action for breach of confidence, if the defendant has a reasonable defence of public interest. The reason is because the defendant, if he is right, is entitled to publish it: and the law will not intervene to suppress freedom of speech except when it is abused.’

Lord Denning MR
[1972] 2 WLR 389, [1971] 1 All ER 1023 CA, [1972] 2 QB 84
England and Wales
QualifiedBritish Oxygen Company Limited v Liquid Air Limited 1925
The plaintiff alleged a breach of copyright by the publication of a letter.
Held: The defence of fair dealing was rejected.
Romer J said: ‘But I need not consider this further, and for this reason; the Act no doubt extends to unpublished . .

Cited by:
CitedAmerican Cyanamid Co v Ethicon Ltd HL 5-Feb-1975
Interim Injunctions in Patents Cases
The plaintiffs brought proceedings for infringement of their patent. The proceedings were defended. The plaintiffs obtained an interim injunction to prevent the defendants infringing their patent, but they now appealed its discharge by the Court of . .
CitedFraser-Woodward Ltd v British Broadcasting Corporation Brighter Pictures Ltd ChD 23-Mar-2005
The claimant asserted infringement of copyright by the defendants in photographs of the family of David Beckham. The defendant admitted using the photographs but asserted that no permission was required since the use was a fair dealing.
Held: . .
CitedAssociated Newspapers Group plc v News Group Newspapers 1986
The Sun printed copyright letters which had passed between the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but the exclusive rights to which had been obtained by another newspaper. As to dicta that use by a competitor is not fair: ‘That seems to be exactly . .
CitedLion Laboratories Ltd v Evans CA 1985
Lion Laboratories manufactured and marketed the Lion Intoximeter which was used by the police for measuring blood alcohol levels of motorists. Two ex-employees approached the Press with four documents taken from Lion. The documents indicated that . .
CitedHyde Park Residence Ltd v Yelland, News Group Newspapers Ltd, News International Ltd, Murrell CA 10-Feb-2000
The court considered a dispute about ownership and confidence in and copyright of of video tapes taken by Princess Diana before her death.
Held: The courts have an inherent discretion to refuse to enforce of copyright. When assessing whether . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property

Updated: 11 December 2021; Ref: scu.182267