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Getty Images wins £2,000 settlement over unauthorised web use of photo

A removals firm has been ordered to pay nearly £2,000 to photographic agency Getty Images for using a copyright-protected photograph on its website. The company had removed the picture when notified by Getty Images but had not paid a requested fee.10 Sep 2009

JA Coles, of Manchester and London, used a photograph entitled 'Mother with daughter (6-8) looking at each other and smiling' on its website. Getty Images had a contract to market the picture on behalf of its owner, Canadian photographer Larry Williams.

Getty said in its court submission that it had used image tracking technology to detect the unauthorised use of the picture in late 2007. Getty said that it wrote to the company seeking payment for the use of the photograph. The photograph was removed from the site but JA Coles did not reply to Getty Images' letter or pay the fee requested in int.

Getty Images sued in the High Court for copyright infringement. That case has now been settled and JA Coles has admitted that it infringed copyright by using the image and has agreed to pay damages.

The company has agreed to pay £1,953.31 in damages and interest over the use of the picture, plus Getty Images' legal costs.

As well as the commercial rate for the use of the picture, Getty Images had originally claimed compensation for the cost of detecting the infringement; 'insidious damages' it said were caused because such use of its images undermines its ability to be paid in full for all its images and exploit the rights it has; and additional damages once it had more information on the full circumstance of the case.

There is no mention in the short court order issued by the High Court of additional or insidious damages.

Courts will usually award as damages the normal commercial fee that would have been paid by a company to license the image in the first place in such cases and award additional damages only where a company can show that the breach of copyright was flagrant.

Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, acted for Getty Images in the case.