In January 2008 the "Church of Scientology" reportedly threatened several websites with copyright infringement actions for displaying a video of Tom Cruise. The video in question shows Cruise enthusiastically extolling the virtues of the Scientology to the appropriately intense refrain of the "Mission Impossible" theme tune.
Whilst the video itself offers insight into little beyond the mindset of Cruise, it does allow an opportunity to consider the relevant defences to such alleged copyright infringement under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1977.
Any potential breach of copyright caused by websites reproducing the video in this manner may be subject to the defence of fair dealing under section 30(2) of the Act:
"Fair dealing with a work (other than a photograph) for the purpose of reporting current events does not infringe any copyright in the work provided that…it is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement."
The exemption of photographs ensures protection of the work of newspaper and current affairs photographers.
A "sufficient acknowledgment" is an identification of the work in question by its title or other description and, unless the work is anonymously published or the author cannot be ascertained by reasonable enquiry, an identification of the author. However, no acknowledgement is required in relation to sound recordings, broadcast or films where impossible "for reasons of practicality or otherwise."
There is no requirement for the work to have already been made available to the public, as is required under the section 30(1) exemption of fair dealing for criticism or review. There are however boundaries to the concept of "fair dealing" - a work made available in breach of confidence would be unlikely to fall within section 30(1) or 30(2).
The courts have taken a liberal approach in defining "current" events – diaries of Paddy Ashdown regarding events dating back two years were deemed to fall within this definition. The court did however determine the UK's return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 to fall outwith current events in 2005. Clearly Cruise is a high profile figure, and much furore surrounded the actor shooting a film in Germany recently due to Germany's longstanding suspicion of Scientology. The footage may therefore be deemed a current event by the courts.
Thus, it seems likely that providing a link to the video of Cruise would not infringe the copyright due to the application of section 30(2). However, unless the copyright owner's details are very difficult to access, an acknowledgement of the owner should be provided when reproducing a work for the purpose of reporting current events.