Simpsons Solicitors

Don’t cock a snook at a court

May 7th 2014

American photographer, Vincent Tylor, has succeeded in a copyright infringement action against a Melbourne travel agent, Serpil Sevin, who used one of his photos on her website without permission. The photo first appeared online under licence, but had then been copied onto other sites without a licence (including onto the site on which Ms Sevin and/or her web designer likely found it).

Noting that this was the first case of its type in the Australian Federal Circuit Court, the court held that Mr Tylor’s copyright had been infringed, and awarded him $1,850 in damages by way of compensation (based on his usual licence fee); an additional $12,500 by way of additional damages for Ms Sevin’s uncooperative behaviour; and legal costs assessed at $9,500.  In total, a sum of $23,850.

In relation to the award of additional damages, the court noted that it was satisfied that neither Ms Sevin nor her web designer made any reasonable enquiry about who owned copyright in the photo or who had taken it. Indeed, it found that, in all probability, Ms Sevin recklessly disregarded these questions. The court also emphasised the need to prevent similar copyright infringements and expressed particular concern that Ms Sevin – who, notwithstanding a series of letters and emails sent to her by the solicitors acting on behalf of Mr Tylor and who failed to appear before the Court to defend the claim – had, in effect, “cocked a snook” at the court.

The case is a timely reminder of the dangers of sourcing and using photos on websites without permission. Just because a photo is available on the net, doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs to be used elsewhere without permission. The case is also a timely reminder that it’s not a good idea to just ignore letters from lawyers!

You can read the judgment at:

http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FCCA/2014/445.html

If you’re worried about what you can and can’t use on your own website, how to go about getting clearances, or what action you can take against someone who has used your material without permission, contact copyright lawyer Adam Simpson or Ian McDonald (Special Counsel, Copyright) at Simpsons Solicitors.