‘It can be fun to surf and the web. Imagine you discover one of your posts on another blog, and in another language.
That's what I did. Here's the result. Am I flattered or angered? Who cares, except me?’
Hervé illustrates one of the problems with the internet – it is so easy to borrow or reuse both text and pictures without permission. Often the author or the photographer will have no idea that their work has been used elsewhere without permission being sought.
‘Flattered or angered?’ Difficult to have a hard and fast rule as it really depends upon the context. Is it in a collection of press cuttings? Or is it a tasting note that has been pressed into use by a wine merchant or supermarket on their website or in-store? Or a photo downloaded and used in a magazine?
Few of us I think would object to find our words included in a collection of press cuttings. Ideally there will be a link to the writer’s blog or website, so that they can benefit from some additional traffic.
Whereas a photo used without permission? As far as I’m concerned if the use is non-commercial then I don’t have problem as long as a credit is given, which is why I use a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial licence. For commercial use then I want a fee, which in these days of digital photos can be a problem. From time to time I get requests for photos to be used in books or promotional materials. Quite often there is an assumption that I will be prepared to let them be used for nothing but a credit.
“Oh we don’t have a budget for photos,” I’m told! Well if you don’t have a budget, don’t ask me for photos. Would it be acceptable to go to a restaurant order a meal and then say “I don’t have a budget for this.” It wouldn’t be long before the police were called!
A few years ago at a London tasting I happened to pick up a wine magazine. Glancing through it, I soon came across an article about the Lebanon illustrated by a very familiar photo – one of mine. No permission had been sort and someone had pulled it off Flickr site and put it into the magazine.
Kefraya, (c) photograph Jim Budd
As you can imagine I was far from pleased. I sent the magazine, which is no longer published, a considerable bill – charging for the picture and for breach of copyright. Had I not picked up the magazine by chance I would never have known.
Using tasting notes without permission can be very expensive as three UK wine companies – Concha y Toro UK, Direct Wines and Majestic Wine – have discovered to their considerable cost. All have used tasting notes written by UK wine writer, Martin Isark (www.isark.co.uk), without permission and often attributing them to vintages that he hasn’t tasted. In the last instance, Majestic used, without permission, a tasting note that Martin had written for a 2001 Vin de pays d’Oc on a number of later vintages which he had never tasted.
Martin takes a tough line on this. On each occasion he has started court proceedings for breach of copyright and damage to his reputation when, after initial solicitors’ letters, he hasn’t received a reasonable offer of compensation. None of the actions have come to open court, they have always been settled beforehand. Each time there has been a confidentiality agreement, so I don’t have the details of the settlements. However, I believe that in each instance the agreement has been in Martin’s favour and he has been awarded considerably damages. Apparently on each occasion the total bill – damages and lawyers’ fees – has come close to or over £100,000. Demonstrating that some wine companies are foolishly careless or cavalier in their use of writers’ tasting notes.
Martin has been criticised by a number of UK writers for taking this action. However as he has won three times, it would appear that English law backs him on this. Martin points to money that celebrity chefs get for promoting food products in supermarkets not to mention shirt endorsements by footballers, cyclists, tennis players and the like.
Is there any a difference between a shelf-talker quote from a wine writer used by a supermarket to promote a particular wine and a product endorsement by a celebrity chef?
So which of the 5 du Vin is the business manager, then?
(c) Jim Budd