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Website image copyright infringement

Posted: Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:01 am
by baxter
Hi - I put an image on a website last year believing it to be OK. Several months later I checked it on tineye.com and found that the copyright is owned by an image library. So I removed the image and purchased a copy. (It was a standard one-off licence - not charged per unit of time. To my knowledge I did not contravene any other terms of the licence). Where do I stand legally for the period I had infringed copyright?

Re: Website image copyright infringement

Posted: Fri Mar 19, 2021 3:40 pm
by AndyJ
Hi baxter,

Unfortunately copyright infringement is a matter of strict liability - that means that unknowing infringement is no defence against a claim made by the copyright owner. However the fact that you have unilaterally rectified the situation and now have a valid licence should count in your favour if you were unlucky enough to face a claim. Since the infringement is no longer ongoing, a claimant coming fresh to the issue today would have very little way of proving that the previous unauthorised use had happened. Perhaps the only realistic way to look back in time in this way involves the Way Back Machine. If you are not familiar with this feature, it might be worth a google. And if you are concerned, you can do a search on the WBM for your own website and if any incriminating evidence shows up you can ask for it to be deleted. Alternatively just keep your fingers crossed and wait for six years, after which the copyright owner can no longer bring a claim due to the provisions of the Limitation Act 1980.

Purchase of a licence cannot have retroactive effect without the consent of the person authorised to issue the licence, in this case the image library, and for obvious reasons, I suggest it would be unwise to contact them about that in the circumstances.

Re: Website image copyright infringement

Posted: Fri Mar 19, 2021 4:05 pm
by baxter
Thank you for your insight Andy.
If the past infringement was detected, and the copyright owner made a claim - what would the claim be for?
If I bought the image relatively soon after using it, they would have suffered no financial loss.

Re: Website image copyright infringement

Posted: Fri Mar 19, 2021 5:14 pm
by AndyJ
Hi baxter,
The claim could only relate to the short period when the infringement was occurring. However as the current licence which you now have is not time-limited, I'm not sure on what basis any damages could be calculated, since, as you say, the copyright owner is in exactly the same position now, financially speaking, as he would have been had you bought the licence at the correct time. There is no loss which needs to be redressed. As you have not mentioned any other factors which might attract additional damages, I think a formal claim would be pointless and a waste of the court's time.

Re: Website image copyright infringement

Posted: Fri Mar 19, 2021 5:28 pm
by baxter
Many thanks Andy.