University Of London Press Ltd. V. University Tutorial Press, Ltd.

By- Anjanee Goel[1]


There were two examiners who were appointed for the University of London’s matriculation examination but on the condition that all or any copyright in the examination papers would belong to the University of London. The same was entered into via a copyright deed assignment between the university and the plaintiff company, University of London press.

After the whole examination got over, the defendant company, i.e. University Tutorial Press issued publications of the question papers along with their criticism and answers. The University of London along with the two examiners, Prof. Lodge and Mr. Jackson, brought up a case against the University Tutorial Press for Copyright infringement.

There were, in total, four issues raised in this case:

(a) Do the examination papers come within the definition of the term “literary works” under the Act;

(b) If the exam papers were held to be literary works, were they “original”;

(c) At the time when the exam papers were being made, in whom did the copyright reside; and

(d) Did the University tutorial press infringed the copyright rights of the examiners.

It was held that with respect to “literary works”, there is no statutory definition under the UK act of Copyright, but it is said that literary works include maps, charts, tables, etc. Also, the work has to be expressed in a printed or written form not keeping into consideration the quality of the work. Since, both the examiners had applied there mind, labour and judgment, hence the exam papers were held to be literary works.

With regards to the second issue it was held that since it is already established that copyright law doesn’t protect idea but protects the expressions of the thought, being in printed or written form in case of literary works, hence, it was held that the papers set by the examiners were their original literary works.

It was held in 3rd issue that the examiners were the ones who made the papers by applying their skills, they were in a contract with the University of London and were even paid a lump sum money in return for the work.

Finally, in 4th issue, it was held that the examiners were not the staff of the university as they were in contact with other educational institutions as well and they were working for it in a contractual obligation. The work belonged to the examiners and they had entered into a copyright assignment deed through the university with the plaintiff company and hence, the University of London was rightly entitled to the copyright of examination papers. The defendants contended that they published the exam papers for the purpose of private study and asserted that this is an action of “fair dealing” under the act. Both the publications by both the universities were done for educational purposes but the defendants could not bring sufficient evidence to protect themselves under the defense of fair dealing. Hence, the plaintiffs won the case.

[1] 5th Year, BBA LLB (H.) in Corporate Laws, UPES, Dehradun.

[2] University of London Press Ltd. v. University Tutorial Press, Ltd. (1916) 2 Ch D 601.

Case Notes

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