Sky News Infringed My Copyright


UPDATE!

I have reached a settlement with Sky.

Update: 16 March, 2011. They have finally paid up!

tl;dr

Sky News stole my copyrighted work and distributed it without credit or payment.

I asked them to pay £1,500.

They refused.

Full Story

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.

Sky replied:

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...

A Settlement

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.

I will be donating £100 to both The Open Rights Group and MySociety. And drinking the rest.

Thank you for all your comments, tweets, and messages of support.

Footnote

I'm currently on holiday - so comment moderation and updates may be delayed.

22 thoughts on “Sky News Infringed My Copyright

  1. I hope you reach a fair agreement as Sky are clearly in the wrong, however, you are claiming a fee based on an assignment. If you had in fact assigned all rights, you shouldn't still be displaying the video on YouTube. As you are still showing the video, it undermines your argument somewhat.

    Although in reality the fee provides a decent starting point for negotiations so good luck!

    Sky use Herbert Smith for certain litigation matters and so the fee you have asked for, if they use HS in this instance, will be exceeded in less than 3 hours of their time. More than likely though it is being dealt with by their in-house department.

    1. To clarify - the fee is "as if" I had assigned all rights. Had they original paid for exclusive rights then, yes, I wouldn't still have it on YouTube. However, they didn't ask & haven't paid.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Have you an issued an invoice for the license as you see it? Should make it easier to go for monies owed in small claims court, rather than Copyright Infringement which requires a higher court I believe.

    IANAL, but worth looking into what is suitable for Small Claims.

  3. With all the SOPA, PIPA and now I hear ACTA hype, Sky should really be careful about doing this sort of thing. Particularly since (as you pointed out) they support it all! I'm going to FB/Tweet this, I hope they pay you what you deserve.

    I recorded a burning building in Manchester a while back and the MEN featured it in a news story...they had the good decency to ask me prior to uploading it to their page. Sky should have done the same. You deserve your compensation.

  4. I wonder if they will try to take their lawyers' fees out of your settlement. Would be depressingly unsurprising if they did...

  5. I wish you well.

    Might be worth checking out whether this sort of case can be dealt with via the small claims court.

    Alternatively it is not essential to use a solicitor to take a case via The County Court although there is always the possibility of them seeking costs from you, in some circumstances.

    I just think some of these chancers need to learn they are as much subject to the law as individuals.

  6. The amount you are asking them seems completely excessive. You did not tailor it specifically for them and they don't have exclusivity so the £300 standard rate wouldn't apply in the first place. Also copyright cases are based around loss so if you are not an experienced freelance journalist you could never have expected to be paid as one. Also you can't just add £400 on for this and that, it is a compensation for your loss, not a random amount you feel will punish them. £50 doesn't seem an unreasonable amount if they had asked, so 4x that for the breach = £200, making their £300 offer seem pretty good. Maybe you can double or triple that up but the amount you are asking seems crazy. I have no sympathy for Sky not respecting people's copyright but if you don't keep a reasonable expectation you will walk away with nothing.

    1. Hi Bob,
      As I mentioned, the £300 is what they paid for using Joe Neale's photograph without permission. Personally I think video & audio is worth more than a photo.
      I regularly sell my time, write articles, and sell my copyrighted work. I know how much I would charge and how much I could have received.
      As mentioned, an exclusive licence would have been 4 times the original fee.
      I also haven't included the hours that I have spent chasing them.
      So, overall, I feel the fee is fair. But I respect your difference of opinion.

      Thanks for the comment.
      T

  7. You know what's really scare about yogur story? You. If tomorrow, for some reason, you become the director of a Hollywood studio, we are all screw. You'll be chasing every kid that copies a movie and you'll use any law out there to shut down all the file sharing website on the web. You are just like them, the people supporting SOPA, the only difference is that you are not a CEO or politician, yet. God save us all if you ever are.

  8. Well done for standing up to these hypocrites. I would suggested additional sending this to your local MP (I'm assuming you're UK based) and to the Trade & Industry Secretary as an example of how unbalanced the current system is and that it need modifying to protect rights holders. Not saying they'll pay any attention but if you don't try the law will never get re-balanced.

  9. I know that this topic was started at the beginning of the year however I was wondering if you knew anything about America's NBC News Channel They took a part of one of my video's off of youtube and broadcasted it last week without my knowledge?

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