Photographer wins £5k+ in earth-shaking case

Grand theft auto

IT WAS probably the first case of copyright theft in which the illegal reproduction demands an art-gallery label, reading "Earthquake, 1995. Mixed media: marine plywood, oils, 4-inch RSJs and a wrecked car". But however unexpected the materials used, a reproduction - of a photo in this case - is still a copy. The Freelance looks forward to a case involving a text laid in brick. Meanwhile, the Freelance Office marks another notch in its legal tally-stick. John Toner reports.

IT IS always advisable to be wary when pursuing a copyright case in the Small Claims Court, as the judge may not be familiar with the law. It is all the more gratifying, then, when a judge demonstrates her competence in this area.

One LFB member photographed the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan, and some of his pictures were published in The Independent Magazine in the same year.

In 1999 he visited the Natural History Museum and purely by chance discovered a life-size installation of a car crushed by a building that reproduced exactly one of the pictures used by the magazine.

Crushed car in Kobe, 1995
Photo © 1995 Dario Mitidieri

After several years of fruitless negotiation, a claim was made to court against the commercial company responsible for the design and construction of the installation. The case was not defended, and our member collected a tidy sum when five years of interest and costs were added by the judge to the £5000 claimed.

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