House of Harlot, makers of latex dresses, rubber miniskirts, latex rubber catsuits, dominatrix costumes and much more, were caught with their bondage pants down when fetish, fashion and beauty photographer Emma Delves-Broughton from Bath discovered one of her photographs being used without permission on their website.
Delves-Broughton objected to the breach of her copyright but House of Harlot refused to stretch to an offer of payment. In May 2012 the photographer took the clothes design company to the Patents County Court in London and won.
“The image was one I shot in 2005,” Emma told EPUK. “The arrangement for the shoot was directly between the model, Amber Erlandsson, and myself and no one else.” The licence Emma granted Miss Erlandsson was only for the model’s own personal, promotional and portfolio use.
In 2009 Emma, whose work has been published in Maxim, Loaded and Marquis, and Marquis Style, discovered that House of Harlot Ltd had obtained her photograph from the model and had been running it throughout their web site for six months. House of Harlot never approached the photographer for permission to use the image, perhaps because a fee for the use based on suggested NUJ rates would have totaled £3600.
When Emma contacted House of Harlot they removed the image from their web site but refused to make an offer to pay for the image use.
Oral licence fails to satisfy court
“Miss Erlandsson was granted licence to make usage of the image for her portfolio,” claimed House of Harlot in a letter to the Patents Court. “And we were also granted licence verbally by dint of Miss Erlandsson’s licence.”
The Judge, Mr Recorder Douglas Campbell, did not agree. And when model Amber Erlandsson gave witness for the defence he just wouldn’t wear it.
Mr Recorder Campbell was not satisfied that the model had the right to give away the photographer’s image. He also accepted that Emma had no option left but to settle in the courts. The Judge did however take an elastic view of House of Harlot’s multipage use deciding that these should be seen as a single use even though the image appeared many times throughout their website.
The court awarded Emma Delves-Broughton a total of £2,123 plus interest, enough to clad a judge, jury and the ushers in the finest latex. In a further blow to House of Harlot leave to appeal was denied.
Removing picture is not compensation
“My reason for going to Court was simply that I believe in my rights as a photographer,” said Emma. “If someone wants to use a picture, they must ask the photographer directly.”
Emma adds that it’s no use taking an image down and expecting that to be enough compensation, after all it has already been used. “I maintained from the start that I wanted a payment for usage. At first I had not even put a price on it and was open to offers,” she said. In fact she would have been happy for House of Harlot to “Just make an offer.”
“We have no intention of making payment of £3,600 or greater, nor of making a smaller offer,” House of Harlot told Emma when first contacted about the copyright breach. Even Emma’s offer to settle at the lower price of £2,000 if paid within 28 days was ignored.
The photographer was left with two options. One was to let it go, and carry on letting people think it’s OK to use pictures without permission. The other was to take the matter further by going to Court.
Emma Delves-Broughton chose the latter and won. Had the House of Harlot stretched to an acceptable offer for the copyright infringement their day of shame in Court would never have happened.
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