Sep 3, 2018

I don't want to talk about it / copyright infringement

A £9,999.99 (note: definitely not £10,000) copyright infringement claim has been brought against rock'n'roll legend Sir Rod Stewart. The allegation, made by Julia McLellan on behalf of her agency, is that Sir Rod used a photograph that she owns as the backdrop at a gig, and did so without permission and without paying any fee for its use.

The claim sets out that the photograph was never published until it was used by Sir Rod in the backdrop at BBC 2's Live in Hyde Park festival. Mrs McLellan claims to have acquired the copyright from Christopher Southwood, who was a school friend of Stewart, in 2004. The claim goes on to explain that while Mr Southwood gave Sir Rod a copy of the photograph, no license for its commercial use was ever formed (impliedly or otherwise).

Sir Rod's Defence has now been filed which dismisses the claim as disproportionate. It argues that the photograph was displayed as part of a wider "more substantial artistic work" and appeared for only 8 seconds in total. It described the use as "totally innocent, brief and incidental", and described the level of damages sought as "absurd".

On the level of damages, it should be noted that the claim for a penny under £10,000 means that the claim is allocated to the small claims track where parties do not receive much of their legal costs back if they are successful. What that means for Mrs McLellan is that if she loses she is unlikely to have to make more than a nominal contribution to Sir Rod's legal costs. If, however, the claim had been for £10,000.01, then it would have been subject to a costs regime that is more generous to the successful party.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or



in: Copyright, News

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