Book review: 'Digital Copyright Law and Practice', by Simon Stokes

Author:Katie Osborne
Position:Solicitor at Moorcrofts LLP
Book review: 'Digital Copyright Law and Practice', by Simon Stokes 69
Book review: 'Digital Copyright Law and
Practice', by Simon Stokes
Katie Osbornea
(a) Solicitor at Moorcrofts LLP
DOI: 10. 5033/ifosslr.v6i1.100
Katie Hill reviews Digital Copyright Law and Practice, a book which
is due to come out in 2014.
Law; information technology; Free and Open Source Software;
intellectual property; copyright; book review
Simon Stokes’s Fourth Edition of Digital Copyright Law and Practice is a fairly comprehensive
explanation on the topic of digital copyright and related areas and contains précises of interesting
(for the most part) and relevant case law and legislation as well as some commentary and practical
examples of how various issues could be addressed in reality.
The opening pages explain that the aim of this book in relation to digital cop yright is “to help
educate rights owners, users and their lawyers of these challenges so that they can better protect
and exploit their copyrights”. To write a book which is designed to guide three groups of people
who are likely to have disparate levels of knowledge and different requirements is a real challenge
and it is unclear why anyone would declare this aim so baldly unless they felt that they had
accomplished it.
Although the precedents and checklists section at the end of the book may prove to be instructive
and useful for both lawyers and their clients (though will clearly need revision with future
developments), I am unconvinced that this book full y achieves its stated aims. The book is also
rather awkward and unwieldy in places. The “rights owners and users” focussed sections may
prove to be irritating for lawyers and it is possible that the lawyer orientated sections will have a
soporific effect on non-lawyers.
The book does, in certain places, go into some depth of explanation on the basics of copyright
(which seems designed for the layman) but fails adequately to cover all bases if its intention is to
start from first principles assuming practically zero knowledge. For example, joint authorship is
rather glossed over and this may lead to confusion when the nuances are later discussed. The text
delves into legislation and case law across the world which is perhaps only really exciting for
lawyers. A little more commentary and discussion on the issues and the views of the author on
how this impacts practice going forwards may be interesting and assist in breaking up these rather
dry law yer-focussed sections. That said, a full text on the basics which also gives deep critical
insight into law and practice would extend this book to a tome of such a size as t o become
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70 Book review: 'Digital Copyright Law and Practice', by Simon Stokes
unappealing and a line has to be drawn somewhere.
This, however, is nothing to a major issue which is exemplified by the following statement: “Some
argue that copyright ought not to exist or at least it should be severely limited in its application.
The ‘open source’ or ‘copyleft’ movement discussed later in this book is one example of this”.
Ideally, in that discussion, Mr Stokes would give a further explanation of F/OSS and correct this
statement but alas, the page and a half committed to open source’s “challenge” to software
copyright neither corrects nor clarifies, and the final two page section merely provides a slightly
alarmist checklist for companies considering open source. The fact that in a book dedicated to
digital copyright there are a measly four pages dedicated to open source and a couple of scattered
references seems bizarre. But worse than that, the text misrepresents the F/OSS movement. This
potentially misleads its readers and must be addressed in the fifth edition.
About the author
Katie Osborne is a solicitor at Moorcrofts LLP, a boutique technology firm based in Thames
Valley. Katie transferred to Moorcrofts for the final part of her training contract in order to work
under the guidance of Andrew Katz and remained with the firm once she qualified. Katie now acts
for a wide range of clients both based in England and abroad in non-contentious commercial
issues, intellectual property and technology. Katie has recently passed Harvard Law School's
distance learning course on US copyright law and has a particular interest in FOSS and open
hardware and data issues.
International Free and Open Source Software Law Review Vol. 5, Issue 2
Licence and Attribution
This paper was published in the International Free and Open Source Software Law
Review, Volume 6, Issue 1 (December 2014). It originally appeared online at
This article should be cited as follows:
Osborne, Katie (2014) 'Book Review: Digital Copyright Law and Practice',
International Free and Open Source Software Law Review, 5(2), pp 69 – 70
DOI: 10.3366/ifosslr.v6i1.100
Copyright © 2014 Katie Osborne.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons UK (England and Wales) 2.0
licence, no derivative works, attribution, CC-BY-ND available at
As a special exception, the author expressly permits faithful translations of the entire
document into any language, provided that the resulting translation (which may
include an attribution to the translator) is shared alike. This paragraph is part of the
paper, and must be included when copying or translating the paper.