UK: Photographer won court case over copyright infringement

On 16 October 2009, freelance photographer Alan Grisbrook working for MGN won court case over copyright infringement by publisher MGN Ltd.

In 1998, Mr Grisbrook had already attempted to sue MGN Ltd for the unlicensed use of his pictures after he stopped working for the Daily Mirror. In 2002, they ended the dispute by signing a Consent Order, whereby MGN undertook, amongst other things, to return all physical copies of the images and to delete all electronic copies from their systems. In the 2002 Consent Order, Mr Grisbrook expressly reserved his rights to take legal action against MGN for future infringements of his copyright.

In 2008, Mr Grisbrook found that the publisher MGN Ltd of Daily Mirror has kept the back copies of his images. MGN Ltd had made available copies of his images  to customers through various archives websites when Mr Grisbrook was not informed , nor compensated for the permission of such use.

Mr Grisbrook alleged that, by storing the images electronically and communicating them to the public, MGN Ltd. was infringing his copyright and was breaching the 2002 Consent Order.

The court found that on the facts the licence granted by Mr Grisbrook did not allow MGN Ltd. to publish the images on the websites becausethis form of commercial exploitation had simply not been in the contemplation of the parties at the time the licence was granted and because this term was not otherwise necessary. MGN Ltd had therefore infringed Mr Grisbrook's copyright in the images.

Court judgment: