Copyright infringement has been a serious problem.
Photographers and other artists have long seen erosion of their sales territories by image theft, ‘passing off’ and blatant non-payment of fees. Now things are set to improve with this new development.
Copyright infringement law changing in UK
Ordinary snappers to professional photographers now have a practical, effective legal solution to copyright infringement. In September 2012 the UK Government announced a simple and easy method to pursue damages for copyright infringement. For damages of up to £5000, photographers can make a ‘small claim’ in the Patents County Court (PCC).
The growing Internet and the explosion of online images has created a lawlessness around image use. With billions of images being published annually there is a huge reservoir of potentially available images for copyright thieves to target. This has put pressure on image makers to lower prices and made tracking of stolen images difficult. If photographers find one of their images has been copyright infringed the legal route has been a nightmare.
To improve the plight of UK photographers and others the UK Government has taken radical action. UK copyright laws are sound, but a legal solution has proven expensive and unwieldy until now. Copyright cases take years to progress and costs far outweighs the value of the disputed image in most cases. For photographers, small business owners and amateurs, the legal route has so far been impractical. The little guy loses out. Introducing the “small claims” route makes copyright legal action easy. You don’t even need to appoint a legal representative.
Proposals also mean damages awards may rise to a £10,000 limit next year (2013). Such a limit would make it worthwhile for photographers to pursue claims. The new system means long court battles are avoided and there is no fear of huge legal fees being awarded against you if you lose a case. These changes make it increasingly likely actions will be taken against relatively minor infringements. This will put strong pressure on people not to steal or misuse images.
This move should be considered a great improvement for photographers in general. Interestingly, the new legal route is not restricted to copyright infringement. The jurisdiction of the “Patents County Court” within the “Small Claims Track” also covers:
• trade marks (UK and Community registered trade marks).
• passing off.
• unregistered design right (UK and Community unregistered design right).
To find out more about the legal process download: “Guide to the Patents County Court Small Claims Track” . (PDF 0.21mb)
Readers of this blog around the world should watch the situation in the UK with interest. Many countries suffer from legal problems with copyright infringement. If the new UK legal model works, other governments worldwide would benefit from considering the same route. Image theft is a global problem. The PCC “Small Claims Track” could looks set to improve the UK situation. However, UK photographers are still going to have problems over images stolen by overseas organisations and individuals. Similar laws worldwide would make everyone’s life easier.Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training courses ing digital photography.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.