Sun. Jul 21st, 2019

Potentially SA’s largest copyright infringement case gets a court date

copyright infringementThe copyright infringement lawsuit between photograhper Shaun Harris and the GCIS could be worth upwards of R2.1 billion.

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The R2.1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit between photographer Shaun Harris and the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) has finally had a hearing date set for October 2019.

Years-long disagreement

The fight between Harris and the GCIS has been going on for some time now.

The picture in question was taken of late former president Nelson Mandela when he met the United Kingdom prime minister Tony Blair in 1999.

Then in 2013, for Mandela’s funeral, the GCIS purchased rights to use it as the official image.

However, according to Harris, they far exceeded what was agreed and paid for.

A 65-page report from PictureNet, an online image distributor, showed the image had been used a whopping 2.1 million times around the world.

Allegedly, when the GCIS distributed its communication about the funeral with the image, it included the words ‘I attach a photo you can use’, which led to the massive proliferation of it around the internet.

R2.1 billion lawsuit

In South African law, each copyright infringement faces a R10 000 fine, effectively making the lawsuit worth R2.1 billion.

Even back in 2014, the GCIS was confident of the courts finding in their favor.

“This case has gone to and fro and he has changed lawyers several times. We asked Harris repeatedly to prove his claims, which he never could,” acting director at the time Phumla Williams told The Citizen.

However, the lawyer he has now, Andrew Boerner, believes that whether it is the GCIS or someone else, the use of his client’s image needs to be paid for.

“The lawfulness thereof, the persons responsible and the number of times the image was unlawfully used, will be determined by the court,” he told IOL.

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