Belief in the sanctity of copyright is not protected


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The Court of Appeal has held in Gray v Mulberry Company (Design) Ltd that the dismissal of an employee for asserting her right to own the copyright to her own creative works did not amount to discrimination on the grounds of belief.

Ms Gray worked for Mulberry as a marketing support assistant.  She refused to sign a standard contract clause which assigned copyright in her work to her employer, as she feared that it would give her employer ownership over a novel and screenplay she was writing.  She believed that the copyright clause extended to her artistic activities outside work. This continued to be her position even though the contract was amended to exclude them and, eventually, she was dismissed.

She then brought a claim arguing that the dismissal amounted to discrimination on the grounds of her belief in the moral right to own the copyright to her own creative works.  The Court of Appeal held that her refusal to sign the copyright agreement, and the dismissal which resulted from this refusal, arose from her concern that the wording of the relevant clause failed to protect her own interests sufficiently.  A debate or dispute about the wording or interpretation of an agreement could not be a philosophical belief within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010.

Take note: Following the decision in Gray it's clear that the belief which an individual seeks to claim is protected must put them at a disadvantage.  A close causal link between the action the individual takes because of their belief and the detriment suffered must be shown.

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