Posted by Jessica Bent, Partner
I like this image – am I allowed to use it?
Have you ever just copied a picture from the internet to use on your own website or marketing material? If the answer is yes, then you should be aware of a recent case involving two home improvement companies which has highlighted the potential pitfalls – and costs – of using photographs taken from the internet without permission.
Absolute Lofts owned the copyright in photographs of loft conversions that it had carried out and these were displayed on its website. Twenty one of these photos were copied without permission by Artisan, another loft conversion company, and displayed on its website as a representation of its own work. Despite taking down these photos and subsequently purchasing licensed stock photos, the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (the IPEC) ruled that Artisan had to pay damages to Absolute Lofts. Compensation of £300 was based on a reasonable licence fee for use of the photographs, however the judge ruled that in addition the ‘flagrancy’ of the infringement meant that Absolute Lofts was entitled to additional damages of £6,000. This additional figure was to take into account unfair profits that Artisan had gained through its infringing use of the photographs.
What does the law say?
Copyright law in the UK gives the court the power to award additional damages for infringement of copyright having regard to all the circumstances and in particular to the flagrancy of the infringement and any benefit that has been gained by the infringer.
So if you are currently using photographs or even written content without written permission, you should consider replacing these with properly licensed images or licensed content before action is taken against you. The short term outlay for a licence could prevent a costly damages award in the future.
For advice on using copyright content or images, trade marks, designs or any other intellectual property matter, please contact members of our Technology & Media team.
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