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The False Economy of downloading Images from the Internet without paying
A small window blinds manufacturer has been ordered to pay a painful £6,300 in damages for the unlawful use of just a few images from a competitor’s website. The pictures could have been purchased for a tiny fraction of that sum.
Absolute Lofts South West London Limited v Artisan Home Improvements Limited and another  EWHC 2608 concerned a copyright infringement claim against Artisan Home Improvements. Artisan had copied a series of images of Absolute Loft’s blinds from Absolute Lofts’ website and used them on its own site, giving customers the false impression that the images showed Artisan’s work.
Even though the two businesses were based at opposite ends of the country, with no prospect of competing for the same customers, the Judge ordered Artisan to pay
- £300 damages for the licence fee it would have paid for the images if obtained lawfully plus
- £6,000 to compensate Absolute Lofts for the unfair advantage Artisan had obtained by passing off the work shown in the images as its own, even though there was no suggestion that it had actually diverted any customers.
The decision demonstrates the risk of taking images from the internet and using them on your website without making absolutely certain that you have obtained – which usually means paid for – the right to use them. Just because something is freely available on Google images that does not mean it is not protected by copyright. And ignorance of the true position is no defence.