A Court in Dublin, Ireland, has thrown out a claim for breach of copyright against the Welsh government over their use of photographs of Dylan Thomas. Photographs of the famous poet were used by Visit Wales, a tourism organisation, to promote the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth in 2014. The photographs which it is alleged were used in breach of copyright feature Dylan Thomas with his wife, Caitlan and were taken by their friend and fellow poet Vernon Watkins.
In 2011 the copyright in these photographs was purchased from Mr Watkins widow by Pablo Star Ltd, a multimedia company with offices in London and Dublin. Pablo Star has a history of taking action in respect of alleged copyright breaches both in the UK and abroad. The case against the Welsh government was listed along with 5 other claims including 4 involving publications from the USA and New Zealand.
In this particular case the Welsh government claimed that it had sovereign immunity as its activity was government activity protected under international law. Pablo Star argued that this defence didn't apply as the use of the photographs was part of a £4m commercial marketing campaign. The Court in Dublin did not rule on the substantive issue of whether there had been a breach of copyright or not, it simply said that if the claim was to proceed it would need to proceed in England or Wales.
The basis for this decision is that intellectual property (which includes copyright) is, as the name suggests, a form of property and it cannot be moved between states. The Brussels Regulations (a piece of EU legislation concerning jurisdiction) confirms that any claim involving property should be brought in the state where the property is based, in this instance England and Wales.
It will be interesting to see whether Pablo Star Ltd look to bring this claim in the English Courts, and if they do whether the Welsh government would be successful in their sovereign immunity arguments. If you have any queries or concerns about this case or the issues it raises please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel and Co on 0191 281 4000 or at email@example.com: Copyright, EU/International, News