I am fed up with the copyright laws in this country. Yet again, a national newspaper (who I cannot currently name for legal reasons) has published several of my photographs without permission or payment. Why have the done this? Simple, because with the law as it is, it is in their best interest to do so.
The core of the problem, I believe, is that there is no penalty in of itself for breach of copyright. In this instance for example, all I can legally do is ask the paper for fair payment for the images they have used. What’s fair payment? The going market rate, which ultimately is decided by the purchaser, as something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. So the images are only worth whatever the paper would be willing to pay for them. I could ask for £500 and they could merrily refuse and say they will give me £5.
In theory I am also entitled to receive any profit that has been made from the images, but only a court will be able to rule on that, as the paper is sure to state that no profit was made directly from the images, as it’s an entirely subjective issue. Am I going to take a national newspaper to court? No. The paper has far more money to throw into a legal battle than I have and more relevantly, I simply cannot spare the huge amount of time a court case would eat up. If I’m not working, my business is not earning.
So why should a newspaper respect copyright? If they publish without permission it will either go unnoticed by the copyright holder, so they pay nothing. Alternatively, if they do get caught, they only need pay whatever they feel like. Without a straightforward statutory penalty fee that can be levied at breachers of copyright, there is no incentive against breaking the law.