Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

CIoJ photographer’s copyright case upheld

Institute member Stephen Daniels has had his data protection complaint upheld by the Icelandic Data Protection Authority. Daniels was forced to make a complaint against IMS Vintage Photos after the company published his personal details on the internet.

His personal information was printed on the back of a photograph which had been supplied to the Daily Telegraph more than 20 years ago. However, Telegraph Media Group (TMG) recently struck a deal with IMS Vintage Photos, who agreed to digitally archive the Telegraph’s physical photograph archive. In return, IMS claimed they were allowed to sell the physical prints.

Institute chief executive Dominic Cooper explains: “We immediately complained to TMG about breach of copyright, since they had no right to pass on the supplied images to any third party, much less allow them to be sold. The original printed image was supplied on a First British Serial Rights basis and, therefore, the physical print still belongs to Mr Daniels.

A representative from the Telegraph accepted this was the case and agreed to contact IMS Vintage Photos seeking the return of the physical prints and the removal of Mr Daniels’ work from their website. But the prints were never returned and, despite an initial takedown of the images, they quickly reappeared on a popular online selling portal, being sold by Nordic Pics – a company related to IMS Vintage.”

Further complaints to IMS Vintage Photos were rebuffed, with the company standing by the notion that they were entitled to sell the pictures online under their agreement with TMG. Approaches by TMG were also snubbed and the photos reappeared on the IMS website.

The Institute then complained to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office about a breach data protection rights because, as part of the archiving process, Daniels’ personal details, stamped on the back of the photos, was now freely available to anybody searching online. The Information Commissioner’s Office responded that it was not in their jurisdiction since IMS were based in Iceland.

A subsequent complaint to the Icelandic Data Protection Authority (IDPA) was upheld and IMS were instructed to remove the photograph immediately.

Since this case was started, the Institute has become aware that a number of national newspapers are seeking to strike similar deals in an effort to manage their own photographic archives. The Institute is also aware that this issue is affecting photographers in Europe, whose work has also been passed on to IMS.

Members are urged to be vigilant and to contact Head Office should any of their photographs similarly end up for sale illegally online.

Stephen Daniels told The Journal: “I think it is a disgrace that national newspaper groups are treating work they don’t own in a casual manner. These photographs remain my copyright and therefore it is illegal to pass them on to anybody else, especially if they are looking to sell them for profit. I am pleased that the IDPA accepted our argument for breach of data protection rights, and I will keep an eye out to make sure they don’t do it again.”