Wednesday September 16th 2009, by Piers Strickland
In a case reported on Outlaw, Getty Images has managed to successfully recover damages for copyright infringement from a removals firm who copied a Getty controlled photograph and reproduced it on their website without authorisation. The removal firm in question, JA Coles, subsequently removed the photo, upon receipt of a complaint from Getty, but did not pay damages or indeed respond to Getty’s subsequent correspondence.
Outlaw reports that: “[JA Coles] has agreed to pay £1,953.31 in damages and interest over the use of the picture, plus Getty Images’ legal costs”.
COMMENT: Getty Images are well know for enforcing their rights pro-actively. Most, if not all, copyright lawyers in this country will have had at least one client contact them with a letter before action from Getty Images complaining about alleged copyright infringement.
It appears that Getty uses technological automated methods to spot infringements, so the chances of instances of copyright infringements of their photographs coming to light is perhaps quite high.
Judging from certain blogs and bulletin boards, many people are shocked that Getty would pursue an alleged infringer for damages after it has removed the image from its website. However, Getty will no doubt argue that the value of their business and future revenue streams very much depend on protecting their copyrights robustly.
One thing, however, is clear. If you have copied an image owned or controlled by a company such as Getty (without permission) and reproduced this image in some material form, then this is likely, in many circumstances, to constitute an act of copyright infringement. Normally, a company such as Getty would be entitled to damages or a notional licence fee (which I understand to be around the £2,000 mark for Getty’s business). Innocence is no defence to such an act of copyright infringement and simply removing an image after an act of copyright infringement has taken place does not expunge the original act of copyright infringement.
Furthermore, copyright infringement cases, even small ones, do not go onto the small claims track in the Courts. Instead, such cases are often issued in London’s High Court. In the High Court, the winning party can often recover their legal fees from the losing party. Companies such as Getty often retain very expensive lawyers. Therefore, a company who ignores a warning letter about copyright infringement could be faced with a very expensive legal case on its hands, even if it just emanated from a “minor” infringement.
Lesson: if you happen to receive a copyright infringement warning letter, don’t ignore it, as that it usually a recipe for even more pain. Seek professional advice.