Update: 16 March, 2011. They have finally paid up!
Sky News stole my copyrighted work and distributed it without credit or payment.
I asked them to pay £1,500.
During the recent O2 brouhaha I recorded a video showing how the issue could affect people. I deliberately gave it the standard YouTube licence rather than the Creative Commons licence.
Later that evening, I was alerted to the fact that Sky News had broadcast my video without first seeking permission.
I grumbled a bit on Twitter and was contacted by a representative of Sky News. He was very quick in ascertaining that my video was used without my permission and arranged to prevent it being shown again.
I was not happy about this state of affairs. BSkyB and News International have been very vocal about digital piracy and copyright infringement. They have relentlessly pursued a copyright maximalist agenda which - I believe - is damaging to the creative industries. Not to mention rampantly hypocritical.
Sky News accept user generated videos, with this stern warning:
Copyright protects the interests of the people and companies who create these products. If the content or product or marks in your video are owned by someone else, you are infringing copyright and run the risk being prosecuted.
It is important that you understand that you cannot take other people's creations and use them as you see fit.
Uploading somebody else's video is no different to taking something from a shop without paying. Copyright infringement damages the music, film and television businesses and the future development of music, film and TV programmes.
From Sky News' Frequently Asked Questions about user videos. Emphasis added.
Sky News have a history of ignoring copyright and infringing the moral rights of authors.
Unfortunately, the Digital Economy Act doesn't allow me to sue Sky News for distributing my content for free without my permission. An individual can lose their Internet access for sharing a movie, however there don't seem to be any sanctions against a large company for sharing my copyrighted work without permission.
I don't have the resources to fight a legal battle against Sky. So I decided to settle for cold, hard cash.
Originally, Sky made the following offer:
For a short youtube video like that we would normally pay around £50 & would be more than willing to pay an extra £25 for the fact you weren't asked in the inconvenience it has caused you.
The NUJ publish a freelance rate card. The rate for freelance video should be around £300 per minute.
I farted in Sky's general direction. I wanted £300 for the broadcast of the video, plus £1,200. I calculated that as £400 for them failing to ask permission, another £400 for them infringing my copyright, and then £400 for them violating my moral rights.
Even if they didn't agree with the above reasoning, it is usual to charge four times time standard licence rate when a copyright owner is asked to assign all rights away. Effectively, Sky News had unilaterally assigned all my rights to them - so I felt justified asking for this sum.
Overall, I thought £1,500 was reasonable - especially when you consider that the Daily Mail paid £2,000 for using photographs without permission.
Sky came back with an offer of £300.
I pointed out that s107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 had provisions for fines of up to £50,000, or a six month prison sentence. In comparison £1,500 seems modest.
As I indicated, we do not yet agree on a sensible figure for this use.
Bearing in mind you are now invoking the Copyright Designs and Patents Act I have placed this matter in the hands of our lawyers.
This does not represent an unwillingness to come to an agreement between us but, unfortunately, it is likely to slow the progress slightly.
Now I'm waiting to hear back from their lawyers. I wonder what their hourly rate is?
I'll update this post when I know more...
I have accepted an offer of £300. A few minutes ago, I received this email from Sky:
After consulting with our Sky lawyers our position is that we believe a £300 settlement is a fair and appropriate sum.
Our position is:
- The £300 is in respect of what you describes as "infringement of copyright" rather than any "union rate";
- Contrary to what you claim, we did not act as if you had assigned us all rights. Specifically, we did not claim ownership nor seek to profit from it by licensing to others;
- Criminal liability will not attach in relation to an inadvertent use of footage;
- English law does not recognise violation of moral rights;
- There is no authority that an infringement in these circumstances attracts four times the usual licence fee. To the contrary, the usual measure is what the reasonable cost of licensing would have been.
- Our offer is generous for the reasons above and we will not increase it.
May I also stress that when you are relating this issue to third parties on whatever platform I would consider it unfair if you did not relay the fact that we immediately acknowledged your copyright and sought to bring redress. I stress, once again, that we take copyright and its infringement very seriously at Sky News.
I'm not a copyright lawyer, so am in no position to argue against their formidable legal might. I have invoiced them for £300. I must point out that - once I contacted them - Sky were very quick to take down the infringing content and have been unfailingly polite in their dealings with me.
Thank you for all your comments, tweets, and messages of support.
I'm currently on holiday - so comment moderation and updates may be delayed.