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Vipers Bugloss. Photo © Geoff Dore.

Viper's Bugloss in flower - Geoff Doré, 1983

1 August 2013

On my way back south from Scotland, where I’d been working for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, I stopped off in Northumberland to visit Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle and take some stock photographs. It was 1983 and, in response to photolibrary needs, I’d forayed into medium format and bought a Mamyia C220 which I intended using mainly for landscape photography.

This affordable twin-lens-reflex camera had the advantages of interchangeable lenses and a built-in extension bellows which produced a nearly half life-size image with the 80mm standard lens, meaning it could also produce acceptable close-ups of plants.

As I explored the extensive sand dunes on Holy Island I came across this attractive arrangement of a Viper’s Bugloss plant, with its stunning blue flower-spikes, surrounded by the yellow-flowered Ragwort plants, a composition which really suited the Mamiya’s 6×6 square format. The sunlight was diffused by thin cloud giving an even light ideal for the slow-speed Ektachrome transparency film I was using (Velvia would have produced a gorgeous result had it been invented). The conditions were fairly calm so I didn’t have to wait long for the plant to be still enough to shoot at the required 1/30th second.

It’s a nice enough image but has only sold a few times despite being on my websites for several years. In late 2011, the arrival of image-specific online search engines such as Google Images made it possible to find online copyright infringements, and photographers became able, at last, to bring to book those who had stolen their work and used it online without permission.

In October 2012 I found an unauthorised use of this image on the web site of a small startup business. Although it had been cropped and most of my watermark and copyright information removed the lower part of the ‘ff’ of the watermark remained. This evidence of flagrancy was factored in to my settlement offer to the infringer for an out of court settlement for breach of copyright.

It seems the infringer had acquired the photograph through a Google search and had ignored and removed the clear on-image copyright data and watermark. Negotiations for settlement proved unsuccessful so I began court proceedings in the newly formed Small Claims Track of the Patents County Court, a rather tedious and time-consuming process with a long learning curve. Thanks to information supplied by EPUK members and the EPUK web site I persevered.

Finally, in June 2013, the case was heard and judgment found in my favour. The infringer was ordered to pay compensation just into four figures, which was nearly twice the amount he might have paid had he negotiated and settled out of court.

Geoff Doré took up photography in 1977 before starting a BSc degree in Zoology at London University. His initial interest in close-up and macro photography, particularly of insects, widened to other aspects of the natural world including plants, landscapes, birds and mammals. After graduating he worked full time for the RSPB fitting in nature and landscape photography whenever possible.

In 1984 Geoff won the Insects category of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In total he has been Category winner or Category runner up in the competition no less than four times and picked up a number of Highly Commended awards along the way.

On the January 1st, 2000 Geoff was one of a hundred leading nature photographers who recorded the natural world during the first morning of the millennium for the Daybreak 2000 international nature photography project. Since then Geoff has concentrated on exhibitions and the sale of art prints, lectures, workshops, the occasional wedding and recently diversified into suing those who have been foolish enough to steal his work.

Photographer since 1988. EPUK member since 2001.

See more work by Geoff Doré

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