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DHP settles in photograph valuation dispute

By | Published on Monday 30 September 2013

DHP Family

Live music firm DHP Family has settled a dispute with a photographer after it used a photo he took of Ke$ha and LMFAO without permission.

The deal brings to an end a dispute that actually went to court in May, and which was summarised by Editorial Photographers UK last week. Although DHP admitted it had used the photo, in error, in marketing materials without permission after being made aware of that fact by photographer Jason Sheldon, a dispute then began as to how much the live firm should pay the photo man for past and future use of his picture.

According to EPUK, DHP initially offered £150 for use of the photo, while Sheldon asked for £1350. When agreement couldn’t be reached, the case went to court, where – given that the unauthorised use was never disputed – the debate centred on the value of a single photo of the kind DHP had used.

The promoter presented quotes from various photographers that said that a fair licence fee for use of the single photo should be a few hundred pounds, while Sheldon cited the rate cards of photo agencies like Getty which would put the value of the picture considerably higher.

In court, the judge hearing the case erred more towards Sheldon’s arguments, noting that the photo had been taken backstage, requiring the photographer to gain exclusive access and to photograph in a room with poor lighting. Judge Colin Birss said that both the exclusivity of the moment photographed and the work involved in taking the picture should impact on its value.

In the end the court ruled that a fair price for licensing past and future use of the photo would be the rather precise £5,682.37. According to EPUK, post the court ruling DHP reached a settlement with the snapper covering a licence fee, interest and his legal costs, resulting in the £20,000 settlement.

A reminder that, unless a contract says otherwise, the copyright in any photos sit with the photographer, Sheldon told EPUK that he was glad he pursued his case to court, because the ruling was a “very useful judgement” for the wider photographer community, for whom copyright protection is as hot a topic as it is for music right owners.

Meanwhile speaking for DHP Family, Operations Manager Julie Tippins told CMU: “We regret the oversight which led to this image being used in promotional material without the correct permission or agreement. We have reviewed our internal systems and briefed staff to ensure our use of images comply with copyright legislation at all times”.