Case law: Significant 'additional' damages awarded for copying images from another website
Businesses and individuals should investigate whether images for their websites (or for any other purpose) have been copied from elsewhere, or risk significant additional damages being awarded against them in a subsequent copyright infringement dispute, following a recent ruling.
This update was published in Legal Alert - December 2015
Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.
A loft conversion business copied 21 images from another loft conversion company's website and used them on its own site. The other company owned the copyright in the images.
The business, and its owner, admitted breach of copyright. The issue for the court was how to calculate compensation, and whether additional damages should be awarded.
The parties agreed compensation should be worked out according to the 'user principle' – ie on the basis of 'what the parties would have agreed as willing licensor and willing licensee' had they tried to negotiate a licence fee just before the breach of copyright.
The original company had not lost any business because of the breach of its copyright, or suffered any other financial loss, and there would have been virtually no buyers for the images on the open market. However, it tried to claim £9000 on the basis that was what it would have cost the infringing business to employ a professional photographer to photograph a selection of its loft conversions.
However, the court found that the owner of the infringing business wanted to use the 'cheapest images that looked good enough', even if they were not actually photos of his loft conversions. Rather than commission his own photos he had, in fact, bought stock images from an image library for £300 to replace the images it had copied from the other company's website. The court therefore awarded £300 as compensation.
However, in relation to additional damages, the court found that the owner of the infringing business either knew the images on his website were copied or had reasonable grounds to think they were, but did not really care. In those circumstances the court ordered payment of additional damages of £6000 - 20 times the amount of compensation ordered.
- Businesses should investigate whether images to be used on their website, or for any other purposes, have been copied from somewhere else, or risk significant additional damages being awarded against them in a copyright infringement claim
Case ref: Absolute Lofts South West London Ltd v Artisan Home Improvements Ltd  EWHC 2608
Disclaimer: This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.
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