Tag Archives: Copyright ownership

copyright dispute

Copyright Infringement and Copyright Disputes

copyright disputeThe most common copyright dispute we see involves an image used on a website which the website owner does not own or have permission to use.

The reason this happens is that either a web designer has grabbed an image from the internet and used it in the site design, or someone within the business has done so. This mistake is invariably caused by the assumption that material on the internet is in the public domain and may be freely used.  Alternatively, people unwittingly use material that infringes on someone else’s rights because they had not realised that the copyright licence they obtained does not permit them to use the image for the purpose or in the ways they have used them.

Infringement is sometimes deliberate. For example, there may be an existing contractual arrangement in place governing copyright and the contract is terminated, breached or is otherwise in dispute.

As the copyright owner is the person that has exclusive rights to copy and distribute the image or other copyright works, infringement disputes can arise all too often.

Where someone copies or distributes copyrighted work without the authorisation of the copyright holder, they may be liable for copyright infringement. That is, unless they can establish that an exception applies or that they have a valid defence.

For example, there are exceptions to infringement in certain limited circumstances, such as. in certain situations where someone makes personal use of the work, rather than commercial use.

Copyright Ownership Disputes

When a work or product is created that the law protects through copyright, then the copyright in that work usually belongs to the person who creates it. The law refers to that person as the ‘author’.

Where a work is created by two or more people, it can be complicated to work out who owns the copyright. So, whenever a work is created jointly with others it’s important to discuss how to control that ownership so that the work can be exploited even if a dispute arises between the copyright owners.

Copyright infringement might arise if there have been many changes in ownership as it is difficult to work out who owns the copyright, and can give permission to use it.  For example, if you see an image on a website that you want to use and ask the website owner if you may use it, then even if they give you permission, you could be infringing copyright unless they have permission to give someone else permission to use the image.

Note that where work is commissioned from another business or freelancer it is sensible to clarify in writing who is to own the copyright.

The legal rules that apply in default, lead to some surprising consequences. Where a contract is not used disputes are much more likely to arise.


Resolving Copyright Disputes

The first step in a copyright infringement dispute might be a cease and desist letter.  If you receive such a letter get legal advice.

Copyright infringement disputes are normally resolved through negotiation between the parties. Failing an agreed settlement the dispute would be decided by the courts.


Can you take images off the Internet

Can You Take Images Off The Internet And Use Them In Your Blog Posts Or Newsletters?

Images bring blog posts and articles alive. Downloading them from the Internet is just a matter of a few simple clicks. But are you infringing copyright if you use them? In the first of a two-part article on images, we look at this complex area of law.
Can you take images off the Internet and use them in your blog posts or newsletters?

Great images bring a blog or article alive. That’s why online newspapers and leading bloggers mix text with photos and graphics on all their pages.

But images are protected by copyright law. So, tempting as it may be, you can’t just go onto Google and grab any image that takes your fancy.

In the first part of this two-part article, we look at who owns copyright in images and why you need to identify them.

Who is the owner?

The basic rule is that copyright belongs to the person who creates a work.

Copyright in a photograph is generally owned by the person responsible for its creation.  This may be the photographer if they own the camera and took creative control.  However, if the camera owner sets up the scene, but hands the camera to another individual to actually take the photograph, then copyright will lie with the camera owner rather than the person who took the photograph.

A graphic designer or a painter owns the copyright in work they produce. However, ownership in photographs or graphic design work can be assigned.

Copyright infringement

If you want to use an image, you should first find out who owns it and having done this seek their permission to use it.

If you use an image that is protected by copyright without permission, you open yourself up to a legal claim for copyright infringement. You may have to pay damages to the owner. You may even risk having an injunction against you to stop the infringement continuing.

The rules around copyright ownership mean that it is not easy to know who owns the copyright, and therefore, who to ask for permission.

If you get permission from the wrong person due to confusion about ownership, you will find no sympathy from the courts. “Innocent” infringement is no defence. It is your duty to find out the real owner.  If you are unsure about the owner, consider getting an indemnity from the person you think is the owner to cover your losses if it turns out that your use is an infringement.

You may think that no one is going to notice that you are using their image. After all, the Internet is vast. But you’d be wrong. Websites such as TinEye or Google’s search by image are used by copyright owners to find out where their photos are being used.

Finally, the “fair use” or “fair dealing” defence for using an image without consent won’t necessarily help you. In the UK, the concept of “fair dealing” is quite narrow, when compared to “fair use” which applies in the US. We will look at this in more detail in a future blog post.

The message from the first part of this blog post is to identify the owner of the copyright and seek their permission for any images you use. As ever, if you are in doubt, take legal advice.

In part two of this blog post, I’ll look at stock libraries and Creative Commons licences, along with recent developments surrounding “orphan works”.