As photographers, we all know that copyright can be a minefield sometimes. Put an image on the internet, and there is always the risk that someone could steal your images without your knowledge.
The worst thing is, there is sometimes no way of knowing if someone has stolen your photo and is using it without your knowledge.
Photographer Emma Delves-Broughton recently found herself in a similar situation after she photographed a model, getting her to sign papers that stated that the images were solely for her personal portfolio use, one of the images from the shoot appeared on fetish clothing website House of Harlot who never asked Emma for permission to use the image.
When Emma contacted House of Harlot they did remove the image from their website, however they didn't make an offer to pay for the image use.
Emma says she tried everything to avoid taking the company to court, sending them multiple offers to settle.
"No attempt to settle was made by Robin Archer, head of his company, House of Harlot Ltd, during the course of a year of phone calls, and letters," says Emma. "The last attempts at correspondence were completely ignored, including myself lowering the price in an attempt to settle out of court. That was when court proceedings were started, but not before House of Harlot were warned that this would happen. They had plenty of time to negotiate with me but chose not to."
In May 2012 Emmas took House of Harlot to the Patents County Court in London and in the end, won.
"I proved in court that I am the owner of the photograph," explains Emma. "If a free usage was what they had hoped to have received from me, then they should have contacted me themselves. There is no excuse. I had it in writing from House of Harlot that they had thought they had 'joint copyright'. I proved that this was not the case."
"I funded the whole shoot," says Emma. "I paid the model's travel costs, film and transparency costs, scanning costs etc. House of Harlot had not contributed a penny towards any of my costs, and I received no acknowledgement from them at all."
In court, Emma won the case because she was able to prove she was the owner of the image, and that she had not given her rights away to either the model or the designer.
"I am the sole copyright holder of that image," says Emma. "The model had been issued with a letter when she was given the pictures for her own usage, stipulating that I was the copyright holder, and no one else could use them. It was written in black and white."
Emma urges other photographers who find themselves in a similar position not to give up their rights as a photographer. "Don't be afraid of being bullied by people that claim rights on your pictures. Never give your copyright away, I don’t. Most people do not understand copyright, and may assume that they have rights on your work, so be very clear at the start. If you shot it, it's yours. Make sure you have proof of ownership. I won because of having proof. Keep records of everything."
According to EPUK, the court awarded Emma Delves-Broughton £2,123 plus interest.
You can visit Emma's website here: Emma Delves-Broughton