Copyright infringement insurance via RRO's

Subject: Copyright infringement insurance via RRO's
From: Emanuella Giavarra (
Date: ma 21 syys   1998 - 20:44:48 EEST

(posted originally to cni-copyright list)

Joseph P. Riolo <> wrote:
> About two weeks ago, there was a brief discussion on insurance for
> copyright infringement for entities (such as libraries, schools, film
> producers, companies, etc.). I am wondering if there is anything like
> that for an individual like myself.
> I do copy a lot, sometimes illegally, and could love to purchase an
> affordable insurance against lawsuits on copyright infringement
> whenever I (as an individual) am caught with it.
> Will the umbrella insurance cover copyright infringement?
> I am speaking of the U.S. but I welcome any information about other
> countries (i.e. do the insurance companies in other countries provide
> similar insurance?).
> Inquiring mind wants to know,

This is a very interesting concept. In principle, it should not be
possible obtain insurance against the penalties for committing an
unlawful act. On the other hand, the organisation for which I work, the
Copyright Licensing Agency in the UK (an approximate equivalent of the
Copyright Clearance Center) does, from some perspectives, offer just
such insurance. CLA operates slightly differently from CCC. Our
licensees, who are not individuals but institutions, are authorised to
make photocopies from all books, journals and periodicals published in
the UK (and a number of other countries, with whom we have reciprocal
agreements) except those titles etc listed on a list of excluded works
issued to our licensees. These titles are those where the copyright
holder has specifically asked to be excluded. We are formally
authorised to do this by virtue of mandates (non-exclusive licences)
issued by authors and publishers, and these mandates cover about 95% of
the material copied under our licences. We indemnify licensees against
actions for infringement of copyright, provided that the copying
complies with the terms of our licence. This is the main difference
between CLA and CCC: a CCC licence covers only material in the CCC
catalogue. To a licensee, a CLA licence looks very like an insurance
policy. By issuing a licence, CLA assumes the risk and "reinsures" it
by obtaining mandates from publishers. Given the complexity of modern
publications, even publishers cannot always be sure that they have all
the rights for all the components of their publications; nevertheless,
they assume the risk in mandating CLA.

If our licences did not expressly provide for an indemnity, one would in
any case be implied by virtue of S.136 of the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988. This provision was in fact based on our indemnity,
and CLA is mentioned favourably in the 1986 White Paper which preceded
the Act.

We don't offer licences to private individuals, but we do have a
significant number of one-person businesses licensed.

Two further questions are raised: Could this type of licence could be
used to cover other private infringing acts - such as home taping, or
use of software? and could the same sort of insurance be offered,
perhaps more cheaply, by an insurance company? To the first question,
the answer presumably is yes, if copyright holders were prepared to
establish such a system. To the second, I don't know, but I'm not
sure how desirable it would be for the premiums to go to an insurance
company's shareholders rather than to copyright holders. And would
rightsholders have a claim against the insurance company for
authorising the copying?

Edward Barrow

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