Photographer Sues School For Pupils' Breach of Copyright

Matthew Howe

Dirk Renckhoff, a photographer, has successfully sued North Rhine-Westphalia school in Germany after pupils used a photo of his in a presentation that they had got from a travel website.

Renckhoff argued that he had consented to the travel website publicly using his photo but not the school placing it on their own website. He believed it was irrelevant that he had already consented to the photo being used publicly, and argued that the school still needed to ask his permission for them to use it.

The school responded that Mr. Renckhoff had already given permission for the photo to be used publicly and be seen by anyone on the internet, meaning use on their website was fair as they were not doing anything that had not already been consented to.

The German court that was hearing the case consulted the European Court of Justice which stated:

“The posting on a website of a photograph that was freely accessible on another website with the consent of the author requires a new authorisation by that author….By posting on the internet, the photograph is made available to a new public”.

The European Court often refers to ‘new public’, essentially meaning that by downloading and placing the photo onto their website, the school had presented it to a new group of internet browsers than those that would have seen it on the travel site. The court's decision resulted in the school being ordered to pay 400 Euros to Mr. Renckhoff.

Although the UK is set to leave the European Union, this decision, for now, means that it is not enough to assume that because an author has already consented to their work being on one site that it is a sign for free use of that work. Consent will still be needed.

Samuels Solicitors LLP assist clients with claims such as infringement, passing off, breaches of confidential information and other intellectual matters.

If you have any intellectual property dispute that we can assist with, contact us today.