Photographers’ concerns over new trend in copyright theft *H&H Plus*

  • Photographers are working together to combat a more modern form of copyright theft. H&H speaks to snappers and gets legal advice on the issue

    PHOTOGRAPHERS who feel the battle against rider copyright theft is starting to succeed have noticed a worrying trend in companies’ illegally using their pictures.

    H&H has reported previously on the issue of riders’ taking images from photographers’ websites, as screen grabs or pictures on their own phones, without buying them, which is in breach of copyright law, and theft.

    Rob Bayes, of Rob Bayes Photography, told H&H the article, which ran online in April 2017, generated feedback and discussion among equestrians, and that the situation has improved greatly in the past few years.

    “But a new trend has appeared where equestrian businesses have been taking photos from riders’ social media accounts and using them for advertising online, without any contact or permission from photographers,” he said.

    “They might be companies’ sponsored riders, or it might be that Flossie has just jumped clear at a show and she tags the manufacturer of her hat and boots in her post. The business then lifts them and reposts them on their own page.

    “There’s a massive difference between us selling riders pictures for their social media and big, global brands using them for advertising.”

    Mr Bayes explained that when riders buy pictures, they are for personal use only and the photographer retains the copyright.

    The riders may share the pictures on their own social media and even use them on T-shirts or mugs, for example, but commercial use – such as using them on T-shirts to sell – is not allowed.

    He added that the situation has worsened, with companies “making excuses”, ignoring messages and refusing to pay up.

    “Five of us are pursuing the same brand at the moment,” he said. “I try to work with businesses but I make my living selling photos. A lot of these big brands have huge marketing budgets and must know copyright law, and it’s a bit cheeky they’re avoiding paying for a picture.”

    Mr Bayes said he and other photographers are collaborating and will now not accept it if businesses only remove the pictures when contacted. He found out recently that one brand had been using his work for nearly 18 months, so has charged them accordingly.

    “We’re getting results, but having to go to the extent of threatening legal action,” he said. “We don’t like that and don’t want to do it, even though it’s fairly guaranteed we’ll win, but we want to educate people and raise awareness.”

    Fellow snapper Paul Smith of Ultimate Images told H&H he had also experienced the issue, and that of some companies asking riders to ask photographers for permission to use pictures.

    “The companies know copyright law, but it’s us who look like the bad people,” he said.
    “Any republication needs specific permission, and the commercial sector should know better.”

    Louise Lambert, solicitor at media law specialist Reviewed & Cleared, told H&H use of images always depends on the agreement with the photographer.

    “The reuse would be all right if the rider had bought the copyright from the photographer and then licensed the images to the business,” she said.

    “Copyright remains with the photographer, unless, say, a rider has commissioned them to take pictures and has bought the copyright as part of the deal.

    “Just because a photo is on social media, it is not always fair game. You might buy a picture of yourself at an event, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have bought the copyright or that you – or others – can use it commercially.”

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