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Tylor v Sevin = $23,850

Australian Court Case Upholds Copyright Claim

The Federal Circuit Court of Australia has awarded $23,850 in damages and costs to a photographer whose stock photograph was used on a website without his permission.

Travel Photo

The case, Tylor v Sevin [2014] FCCA 445 (26 February 2014), was based on a travel agent (Sevin) using a photograph taken by American photographer Vincent Tylor.

Interestingly, the court accepted that the travel agent, or the web designer employed by the travel agent, may not have realised that the photograph was subject to copyright. In the reason for the judgment, the judge acknowledged the evidence of expert witness Chris Shain (AIPP member).

“[The photos] have become picked up from a site where they appear and where an appropriate licence fee has been paid, and transferred to sites where no licence fee is paid in breach of the copyright of the photographer. This is what has occurred in the instant case. It is the first case brought in this court of this type, which is why the court has noted that it is important.””

Put more simply, the travel agent couldn’t simply say she didn’t know the photographs were subject to copyright and get away with it.

Vincent Tylor had approached Sevin to try to resolve the issue, but being unsuccessful, took Sevin to court.

Continued the judge, “The court does believe that there is a need to deter a similar infringement of copyright, either by this respondent, or by any other potential respondents. Breaches of copyright in this manner are common, as evidenced by Mr Tylor and Mr Shain, and the courts must do what they can to assist copyright owners to maintain their property, and prevent the unlawful use of it.”

The judgment allowed $1850 being a reasonable fee for the use of the image, and then added damages of $12,500, in part because Sevin didn’t even turn up to defend herself. The court didn’t seem to like that! The balance was to cover the legals costs of $9500.

What Can You Do?

This court case is great for photographers because it is crystal clear. It is also crystal clear what a defendent can expect if they use your photographs without your permission, even if they didn’t know the images were subject to your copyright. I

f you find someone has infringed your copyright, send them a letter and refer them to the court case. They are much more likely to pay your fee than risk a higher damages award.

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