Does Your Business Control All the Rights to Content It Creates and Sells?

18 DECEMBER 2019 COMMERCIAL & BUSINESS LAW
Does Your Business Control All the Rights to Content It Creates and Sells?

If you are in the business of producing written material, pictures, artwork, music etc then you will be aware that the law attempts to protect your commercial interest in the material by way of “copyright”.

In a recent case, there was a professional photographer that was in the business of taking photographs and creating floor plans of properties for real estate agencies. The real estate agents would then use the photographs and floorplans to advertise the properties. Their use included posting them on the website realestate.com.au.

The photographer was aware that this was one use for the content he had been creating. A problem arose however, when the photographer realised that his content was being taken from realestate.com.au and reproduced on another site corelogic.com.au without his consent.

This brought into question whether Corelogic had the right to reproduce the photographer's content. Realestate.com.au's terms and conditions addressed this question. They stated that it had the right to license content uploaded to its site and could sub-license that content even after an agent terminated its user agreement with realestate.com.au.

In court, the photographer's lawyers argued that the right to license and sub-license the content was only for marketing during the sales process and did not extend to other uses thereafter (such as that by Corelogic). However, Corelogic argued that the agreement between the photographer and the real estate agencies gave them the copyright and allowed them to use the content as they pleased.

The Court decided that the photographer had no claim because there was no formal written contract relating to the copyright of the content, and that the circumstances didn't support an “implied copyright”.

This case illustrates the importance of understanding one's copyright licenses and the complex situations that can sometimes be created by digital content.