Do I need a lawyer for an image copyright dispute?

Written by Samuel O’Toole | February 24, 2023


We often get asked the question whether a lawyer is needed for an image copyright dispute, it’s a sensible question to be asking for a number of reasons. If you are considering the question then one of two things are likely to have happened:

Situation one: you are the owner of a copyright work (for example in a photo) and someone has used your photo without your permission, this use could be to make money (selling your photo) or using it in a manner you are unhappy with (putting it on an unscrupulous website). In this situation, you are what we would call a “claimant” and it is your claim that a third party is infringing your copyright.

Situation two: you may have used an item of copyright (a photo) on your website or other business materials and someone has written to you to say that you are infringing their copyright. You may, or may not, be using the copyright work in a legitimate manner but nonetheless you need to respond to the copyright claim. In this situation you are a “defendant” and you are defending against the copyright claim.

Lawyers cost money (although at Briffa we offer a free consultation) and so whether you are a claimant or a defendant in a copyright claim, it only make sense to instruct a lawyer where they will add value to the claim or defence.

A lawyer will be able to first advise you whether the claim has any legal prospect of success. For example, if you are a claimant are you sure that you actually own the copyright in question (if you created the copyright work in your employment, then your employer may actually own the copyright). If you are a defendant, a lawyer will be able to advise you whether there are any defences to the claim such as fair dealing.

Once the merits of the claim are established, a lawyer will then be able to advise you on the best way to deal with the issue in light of your objectives. For example, if you are a claimant and you simply want the image taken down, it may make more sense to raise the claim against the website host – although if you are after a compensation payment it may be better to raise the claim against the infringer. If you are a defendant, the lawyer will be able to advise you on how to reduce your liability and swiftly resolve the issue.

If you are trying to agree an amount in compensation where you are a claimant or defendant, a lawyer will be aware of the amounts that the courts award for copyright infringement and so they may be able to help secure you more (or less if a defendant) of a payment.

It’s a fact of life that all good (and bad) things come to an end and so should a copyright infringement claim. The way these things come to an end is usually with a settlement agreement, if you are a defendant a settlement agreement is important as it will release you from any legal claims being made. If you are a claimant, a settlement agreement is equally important as it will create a legal obligation on the other side to pay you the compensation and not infringe again.

Although I am probably biased, a good lawyer will be able to provide invaluable assistance in a copyright claim. This assistance is likely to result in the matter being quickly resolved and in a manner that accounts for your legal rights.

We offer a free consultation at Briffa and so why not get in contact to discuss your copyright claim for free.

Written by Sam O’Toole – Associate

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