We sell products on the internet and have been threatened by a competitor for using "their" images of products from their website.
Firstly, we got the images from the manufacturers website and NOT the competitors website. They do however look very similar as our competitor got the images from the same place.
Secondly, even if we had taken the product images from the competitors website then I do not think the competitor owns the copyright to them. They have NOT taken the photos themselves, they have just used the manufacturer's images and resized them etc.
I believe that this would be classed as a derivative of the original and copyright would remain with the product manufacturer?
Many thanks in advance.
As you say, even if the images were actually lifted from the competitor's site, but are from the manufacturer origianally, so long as you have permission from the manufacturer to use them - and one must assume that the manufacturer either owns the copyright or has a licence to use them in the way that they are currently being used - then you are also highly unlikely to be infringing anyone else's copyright.
The only circumstance where this might not be the case would be if the competitor had, with the permission of the original copyright owner, somehow altered or improved the images in a material way. This would not include re-sizing or trivial tweaking. A derivative image* is only created when someone adds to or manipulates an image in a substantial way, using skill and human creativity.
If the matter were ever to come to court, it would be up to the competitor to prove that:
a. they owned the copyright in the images they are using,
b. that the images you are using are their images and not merely similar images obtained legitimately from another source.
Given that you say that similar images exist on the manufacturer's site, I think it would be highly unlikely that they could prove either contention.
Afternote: * By derivative image, I mean one which because of the extra creative input from a second person, copyright now exists in the second image, separately from the first one. For this to be the case, the second person must obtain the permission of the first copyright holder before making such changes.