That’s grand! Quick payout for photo the Mail pinched

A MEDIA worker has succeeded in quickly getting a big payout for unauthorised use of an image by the Daily Mail with the help of the NUJ.

A tweet posted on the account of Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South, early on 21 June featured two photos of her with nine other Labour MPs on a picket line by striking railway workers outside Victoria Station in London.

The Freelance understands that the photos were taken by a member of Zarah's staff, who works in press and communications. So we believe that the photo was taken "in the course of employment" and copyright rests with the employer, the office of Zarah Sultana MP. Her office had not responded to an email enquiry by the Freelance by the time this article went live.

One of the two photos appeared on the front page of the Daily Mail of 22 June - under the headline "Labour isn't working" and with the standfirst "As millions of ordinary Britons suffer in rail strike mayhem, 25 left-wing MPs defy their party by joining picket lines". The page bore red box claiming this was the "day we went back to the 70s".

The Mail ringed the faces of the 10 MPs in the photo and named them in a caption. The MPs had made no secret of their being there - they had posed for a photo that went out on Twitter with the text, "Great to join striking @RMTunion members at Victoria Station this morning alongside Socialist Campaign Group comrades" The Mail cropped one person out of the photo.

NUJ Organiser Mostafa Rajaai tells the Freelance that the member of Zarah's communications team, who had recently applied to join the NUJ, contacted the Union about the Mail's unauthorised use of the image, lifted from Zara's Twitter feed. The NUJ was able to advise.

The result was that very soon the office of Zarah Sultana MP had secured a payout from the Mail which was described by Zarah in a subsequent tweet as "just short of £1000" - "a grand" in round numbers. She added that "I'll be sending that money from the Mail straight to the @RMTunion strike fund."

We remind freelances that you too can seek compensation for unauthorised uses of your work, whether words or photos. One NUJ member found his articles reproduced without his permission in publications in India and Germany and managed to get a fee out of both outlets after lawyers' letters.

The NUJ has supported photographers who succesfully pursued copyright thieves through the Intellectual Property and Enterprise small claims court track. We've heard of one award of £11,000 made to an NUJ freelance photographer by this court.

In cases such as this it's worth raising the issue of a breach of "moral rights". Here the Mail used the image in a way that coild bring its owner into disrepute. Moral rights barely exist, though, in work done in the course of employment. The Mail also made an unauthorised alteration of the image by ringing the MPs' faces and cropping one person out of the photo.

If an abuse of your work goes to court, such breaches can result in extra payment. That extra should be part of a settlement negotiated out of court, too.