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Clitheroe author wins copyright case against county council

Mr Thornton-Bryar published a Pendle Witch walking guide
Mr Thornton-Bryar published a Pendle Witch walking guide
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The writer of a Pendle Witch walking guide has successfully sued Lancashire County Council for copying his work.

In what has been described as a "David v Goliath" victory, Ian Thornton-Bryar, who used to live in Clitheroe, but now lives in Hampshire, has been awarded damages of £19,187, plus costs, after a Small Claims Hearing found that the council has published extensive extracts from his guide on its website.

District Judge Lambert criticised the council’s “couldn’t care less attitude” towards Mr Thornton-Bryar’s claims for copyright.

Keen walker, Mr Thornton-Bryar, is the author of a booklet "The Lancashire Witches Walk". The council copied significant parts of the text and published it on its Forest of Bowland website in 2014. He complained at the time and the council agreed to remove the text, but a year later the council put the text back online with some amendments.

“In my judgement, the council has copied a substantial part of Mr Thornton-Bryar’s work,” said Judge Lambert, who awarded Mr Thornton-Bryar £9,000 compensation and a further £10,000 for flagrant infringement of the copyright law, stating: “These actions were a deliberate and calculated infringement of copyright, or at the very least they amounted to a couldn’t care less attitude.”

Carole Bullock, a charted legal executive at Taylors Solicitors who acted on behalf of Mr Thornton-Bryar, said that the council’s attitude towards the infringement had been contemptuous.

“They really seemed to think they could ignore Mr Thornton-Bryar and his claims because he was a lone voice. In 2014 they accepted they’d copied the work and removed it but then a year later published it again. Taylors have always been keen to protect the rights of individual authors and designers.”

Intellectual property lawyer, Rebecca Horne, of Taylors Solicitors, said: “It’s really been a David v Goliath case with an individual taking on the might and resources of a local authority — and we’re delighted with the result”.

Elliott Lorimer, principal officer for the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty at Lancashire County Council, said: "This walk was added to the website as a way for people to enjoy parts of the Forest of Bowland. It has been taken off the website. We are sorry about what's happened in this case. While we are disappointed with the judge's ruling, we are not looking to appeal due to the cost that could be involved."

Mr Thornton-Bryar said: “My aim in writing The Lancashire Witches Walk Guide was to encourage sustainable tourism and to promote the history of the Lancashire Witches. I wanted to bring walkers and ramblers back to the countryside to enjoy its natural beauty. I am glad to get resolution to what was a long and pointless fight. I am now actively doing talks around the area I am living now, to generate tourism to the southern counties.”

Barrister Jonathan D.C. Turner represented Mr Thornton-Bryar at the hearing in London. He commented “The Court marked its disapproval of the council’s conduct by awarding additional damages of £10,000 as well compensation for loss of sales and royalties.”

Judge Lambert said that the council chose to publish the Lancashire Witch Walk guide on its website without consulting Mr Thornton-Bryar or seeking a licence from him, despite knowing that a large number of extracts from his work appeared in it. The Council also refused to remove their infringing walk guide from its website despite the requests made his solicitors at Taylors.

The Lancashire Witches Walk guide was written to coincide with the 400th Anniversary of the Lancashire Witch Trials