Copyright is infringed when one of the rights of the copyright owner is performed by someone without the permission of the copyright owner or of the law. Infringement usually involves copying, issuing copies, renting or lending, performing, showing, playing, communicating or adapting the copyright work.
This infringement is called primary infringement. Providing facilities for infringing the exclusive rights or assisting in the making or distribution of infringing copies is also treated as an infringement and is referred to as secondary infringement.
Copyright infringement occurs where a whole work or a substantial part of a work is used without permission to carry out one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. However what constitutes a substantial part is not defined in copyright law. It has been interpreted by the courts to mean a significant part of a work in qualitative terms even where this might not comprise a large part of the work.
The quality of the ‘part’ and its value to the user must be taken into account as well as its length in determining whether it is ‘substantial’. It is possible that a small portion of a work will still be a substantial part. The Mona Lisa smile on the original painting would be a good example of a small portion of a work which if it was still in copyright today would likely be defined as substantial.
In the Infopaq case (Infopaq International A/S v Danske Dagblades Forening, Case C‑5/08, 16 July 2009), the court held that even eleven word long extracts from newspapers can amount to acts of copyright infringement where they are 'the expression of the intellectual creation of their author'.
Making temporary copies
Browsing of the internet creates temporary copies of web pages on the memory of the device. The making of temporary copies is not an infringement so long as it is a transient copy, has no economic significance and is done solely for the transmission of a work or for its lawful use.
Further details on copyright infringement are available on the Intellectual Property Office website.