£10,000 for unauthorised photos

A case of liability and quantum of damages has been decided by the Patents County Court. Nineteen photographs had been used on a drug charity’s website without the photographer’s consent. The firm employed by the charity to create its websites had taken the photographs from a government-sponsored site assuming the images could be used as they would be covered by Crown copyright. By displaying the images publicly available on its website the charity had communicated the photographs contrary to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. A defence of “innocent infringer” was rejected as it required the defendant to show that it did not know, and had no reason to believe, that copyright subsisted. An award of £10,000 claimant damages was made for the use of the photographs over a four-year period plus interest and costs. This case illustrates the very narrow circumstances in which the “innocent infringer” defence will apply and the likely amount involved in damages for unauthorised use of photographs on a website.

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