According to a recent court decision the answer is: no.

Unless it has explicitly been agreed, a magazine cannot simply make available online electronic versions of its publication without paying a licens fee for the photographs in the magazine. (One would assume that the same thing goes for the texts and the journalists.)

This is the conclusion of a recent British court ruling in a dispute between the photographer Alan Grisbrook and MGN Ltd, published on Swan Turton Solicitors’ web site:


A very interesting read.

Swan Turton concludes with three points

“1. All parties, but especially licensees, should confirm in writing the terms of the licence they obtain to avoid the risk of subsequent disappointment at the court’s narrow interpretation of the licence. Basically if, as a licensee, you want more rights than the bare minimum, confirm it in a written agreement signed by the parties or risk being sued for copyright infringement.

2. Photographers, image libraries and other owners of copyright material should regularly check the uses to which their licensees are putting their material. If your licensees are using your material in ways which were not contemplated by the parties at the time the licence was entered into and in ways which are not covered by any written or other agreement, then you may well have a claim in copyright infringement.

3. Any photographer (or image library) who has licensed images to a newspaper which, like MGN, now appears to be making back copies of their editions available online to paid subscribers, may well, following this case, have a claim in copyright infringement if their licence agreement did not clearly allow such use.”

You should read the full text to understand what this really means.

Very interesting!

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