Somewhat sobering but as something that has the potential to affect a lot of us I am honor bound to share this information with you. On Saturday I had an email from a very good friend of mine who runs a blog for the benefit of the art students who she teaches. She had posted a piece on an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Everything featuring the work of the celebrated Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter. Potter was indeed a curious character, whose work revolved around stuffing small animals and dressing them up in Victorian costume all the better for them to inhabit the miniature school rooms and other mini-environments he had constructed for them. My friend had done a Google search for an image of one of Walter Potter's works with which to illustrate her posting. She chose what to all intents and purposes was a very innocuous photo (not the one above) of a group of stuffed baby rabbits in a miniature classroom.
This weekend she received a very intimidating letter from a German photographer who as the copyright owner of the photograph (which in effect had been originally sourced from a postcard with his copyright indicated) wanted payment within a fortnight of some €450.00 for usage of this image. His letter which was forthright to say the least stated that if this payment wasn't met by the due date, he would press for additional payments including lawyer's fees and interest totaling some €5000.00 and to further emphasize the seriousness of his intent he cited a previous example where he successfully sued a German publisher for DM 31,000.00.
Needless to say my good friend has been in an agitated state for much of the weekend, she has removed the offending photo but the guy is not to be so easily mollified. He is pressing for payment and is also pursuing bloggers in the States, Iceland and the UK, including the US blogger who had hosted the site from which my friend had sourced the photo.
I've done a lot of research from my end and learned enough about the dos and don'ts of copyright law and blogging to realize that a lot of bloggers, myself included are sitting on legal time bombs of our own construction.
For anyone with a blog that uses images from comics that aren't their own creation, the defense of "educational purposes" won't make much headway when copyright lawyers get stuck in. We're all hoping that as we're promoting comics the fates will smile on us but as my friend has just discovered, you just need one person with an axe to grind for your world to be brutally upended.
She is now faced with seeking advice from a copyright lawyer at £400.00 per hour or paying off her plaintiff and hoping he'll leave her alone.
In the meantime here's a couple of useful links:
Needless to say the thought that my blog in common with a lot of other comic orientated blogs, is a potential legal time bomb is giving me a certain amount of pause for thought.
Watch this space ...
for as long as it's around!!!