RECENT PRESS RELEASE:
Australians are currently being trapped into American style lawsuits over the use of "royalty free" images on the Internet.
Pursuing copyright infringements has become an industry in itself and law firms are exploiting copyright law to extract extortionate fees that are well beyond fair market value for images obtained from the internet.
These law firms are now targeting innocent Australians and small companies who lack the economic resources to defend themselves and are then forced to succumb to the unreasonable demands and threats of court action.
Ray Thorpe from the Happy Herb Company is taking a stand against this injustice after he and his company were aggressively pursued for the use of a very ordinary image of the Chamomile flower.
“I wasn't even aware that the company had used a copyrighted image"states Ray Thorpe "until we received a letter of demand to the value of over $1000 for an ordinary image that had been uploaded in 2013 by a graphic artist contractor.
The charge is ridiculous given that a similar image could be easily purchased from Shutter stock for under $10."
Notably the Happy Herb Company did not profit whatsoever from the image or interfere with the artists ability to generate commercial value from it. The image was used solely for the purpose of education on our company's A-Z herbal information site and the image was never used in packaging or for sales.
The Happy Herb Company immediately removed the image, apologised for the incident and offered to pay fair market value for it, however the lawyers flatly refused and threatened legal action if the company did not pay the extortionate amount of $1000 within 7 days.
A woman from a local school told Mr Thorpe that she was held to ransom in a similar way after using an ordinary photo on their school page. She was forced to pay over $1000 for a simple and replaceable image or she would endure legal fees that could bankrupt the school. Feeling threatened she had no option but to pay.
Ray Thorpe thus decided to take a stance against this American style action and shine light on this growing mis-conduct that would affect so many innocent Australians.
The matter is now being heard in the Federal Circuit Court Brisbane on friday 4th August, with The Happy Herb Company facing opposing legal costs of over $50k and rising,as they defend themselves against celebrity copyright Lawyer Peter Knight of Banki Haddock and Fiora.
When questioned why Ray Thorpe just didn't pay the $1000 and be done with it, he says that “Somebody just has to stand against this. It is not that we wish to deny artists their dues, in fact our company spends 10% of its turnover supporting good causes and arts programs, it’s that we never knowingly committed an offence. When the image was obtained it was not registered for copyright or identified by the artist whatsoever and it was offered for free in the public domain on a legitimate looking website. This could happen to anyone and it appears to be happening more and more."
"If we win and we expect to,as that would be fair and just.However the public will lose instead because this story will end there.The case will be lost for the public good as it will not reach the level of publicity to raise awareness of this awful copyright trap."
Ray continues "But then If we lose we will carry this fight to the high court for the sake of the Australian public.
Of course in that event we will be seeking funding and a pro bono lawyer who feels as passionately about this insidious copyright trap as I do."
Still waiting to hear the verdict but a recent court case had the judge on side.
Watch this space