PicRights claiming compensation over screenshot of article on a website

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Carlosnuila
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PicRights claiming compensation over screenshot of article on a website

Post by Carlosnuila »

That's right folks, it's another PicRights tale! this one has a funky twist though.

So my wife runs a personal site where she occasionally will write articles. PicRights (on behalf of Reuters) has reached out to her demanding the sum of £370.00 for the alleged "unauthorized" use of an image of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Now here comes the twist. The image in question was:
1. Part of a collage of multiple images
2. A screenshot from an online article showing the article title and image
3. Half the image is taken up by another person (Also discussed in the article)

Here's a blurred screenshot of the culprit:
Image

The image itself is sold by Reuters for use in a single website for £101.50 :https://pictures.reuters.com/CS.aspx?VP ... FQEQ9TB4GL

About my wife's website:
1. It's a personal website with modest visits
2. Traffic to the site is not monetized in any way

About the article and the context of the image:
1. The words on the page were making reference to the headline on the screenshot, the picture was incidental to the point
2. Pic is no longer up as it's not that important anyway

We've responded to PicRights saying that we don't believe any infringement has taken place, they came back with a canned answer and a request for payment.

What's your take?
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AndyJ
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Re: PicRights claiming compensation over screenshot of article on a website

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Carlosnulla, and welcome to the forum.

First of all, can I clarify that you and your wife are resident in the UK. The rest of my response is written on the basis of UK law, so if you live elsewhere, you will need to get advice from a local source in your jurisdiction.

Unfortunately the fact that this image may have been used on a personal blog, with no commercial motive and with relatively few views, makes no difference the fundamental liability for making a copyright-protected image available to the public without permission. The fact that individual image was used within a collage is also irrelevant to the basic claim of infringement.

However when you say that your wife used the image because she was commenting of the original article from which she obtained the image, that may mean that she used the image within the exception provided in Section 30(1) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, that is to say it was used for the purpose of criticism or review of the article for which this screenshot constituted the headline. This defence is very context specific and would only apply if she was clearly reviewing or critiquing the article. It would not apply if, for instance, she was criticising the behaviour of, say, Jack Dorsey, or Twitter. The thing that she was reviewing must have been a work (of literature, reportage etc) which itself was subject to copyright, although it doesn't have to be the photograph itself. And the other essential factor is that your wife's posting itself should not have been reporting the news. This latter point is important because the use of photographs in connection with news reporting falls outside the section 30 exception (see susection (2). Your wife would not have been reporting the news if she was merely referring to facts or opinions etc which were already known. However if she introduced some new fact (say a previously unreported quote from one of the people referred to in the article) then that might well mean that her blog post was news reporting even though she was not a journalist etc.

As you can see, this is fairly technical stuff, and undoubtedly you would need a lawyer to argue this on your behalf if the matter went to court. However I don't think this will ever go to court, so much will depend on your resolutiion in the face of the threats from PicRights. They have no in-house legal team and so won't be able to judge the strength of your defence if you argue that your wife's use fell within the Section 30(1) exception. They will continue to ignore your response and stick to their script. So be prepared for a long tussle before they eventually give up or their outside lawyers tell them it's a hopeless case.

If you decide, for understandable reasons, that you don't want the stress of protracted demands from PicRights, you can make a counter offer, which of course should be based on the standard Reuters fee of £101.50, and not the inflated £370 demand which is only designed to make a profit for PicRights. Obviously if you can find the same image availble for a lower licence fee on another site like Alamy, (which often happens with Reuters' images) use that lower fee as the basis of a counter-offer. You are only liable (assuming the section 30 exception doesn't cover the circumstances) for damages equal to the actual loss the copyright owner has suffered through not having sold a valid licence at the fair market rate. I didn't find the same image on the first 3 of 15 pages of Jack Dorsey images on Alamy, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
Carlosnuila
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Re: PicRights claiming compensation over screenshot of article on a website

Post by Carlosnuila »

Hi AndyJ, and thank you very much for your thorough reply.

To answer some of your points:
(1) We’re UK residents but the article was written while we were living elsewhere, although I don’t believe that makes any difference.

(2) The bulk of the article is about another person and the use of the image was in reference to an event in which Mr. Dorsey joined a Twitter space to discuss some topic with this person. Basically saying “This thing happened” accompanied by a screenshot of the thing and the article stating that it happened. No additional reporting on persons referenced in the article. Just some personal opinions and observations.

(3) The image in the screenshot had already been altered by the people doing the original reporting, it is unclear if they had a valid license for the image as the article is now unreachable.

Does this constitute infringement? And if so on which basis? There are two layers of creators (the original photographer and the artist who created the collage) as well as a commenter (my wife)

I’m trying to wrap my head around whether or not this constitutes loss of business for Reuters / the copyright holder
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