US photographers win $40,000 settlement after Australian copyright breach
US photographers Tony and Chelsea Northrup have published a new video detailing the long chain of events that began with a stolen photo and ended two years later with an Australian court awarding them $40,000 in damages.
The image at the centre of the dispute is a portrait of Chelsea Northrup that was originally published on the couple's book Adobe Lightroom 6/CC for Photographers. At some point the image also made its way onto the packaging of a smartphone case made by an Australian company and sold in Australia and New Zealand.
After reaching out to the company, the Northrups received a reply from the company's law firm several weeks later:
"Our client was unaware that the graphic being used was anything other than a stock photo. Our client used an external graphic designer whom they made enquiries of after they received your letter. They were informed that the graphic had been taken off of a website and incorporated into their advertising without checking.
"On informing the client of the status of your image, they have agreed to remove the graphic from their website, Facebook page, Instagram feed and all other advertising material.They will recall all other products bearing the graphic for disposal."
The dispute escalated into a full-scale legal battle when the Northrup's began receiving images from friends and followers showing the product was still being sold in Australia and New Zealand with the unauthorised image still on the packaging.
And while the eventual settlement would appear to be a win for photographers' intellectual property rights, of the final $40,000 settlement the Northrup's received $10,000 after legal fees.
"It's a lot of work and a lot of stress," says Chelsea Northrup. "You should get something if someone steals your photo, but try to keep the lawyers out of it."