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Friday, 12 December 2014

Badly behaved politicians, Parliamentary Pirates and a point of copyright principle

Amelia Andersdotter
Merpel has received a call for assistance from an unusual source: Amelia Andersdotter. A Swedish politician and former Swedish Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament, Amelia does not yet share all of Merpel's perspectives on intellectual property law and practice and may in all probability never do so. However, both Amelia and Merpel are believers in respect for the Parliamentary process and both feel that IP should be used for the benefit of society, not its detriment. Writes Amelia (who apologises for the fact that her source material, from Dagens Media, is only available in Swedish):
A right-wing populist politician was photographed and filmed while carrying an iron bar that was used to threaten people in central Stockholm. The politician was acting very aggressively towards a number of people during this incident and it caused national outrage since he is highly ranked in his party (the Swedish democrats) and a member of parliament. He later sued the newspaper for making wrongful use of the copyright in the images, especially the moving images. This politician has at least two ongoing cases and is winning in the lower courts.

I don't know the details of the case and am not qualified to make legal analyses in either case. Maybe Merpel knows someone?

The case has in either case been perceived as interesting since the publication of the films and pictures is so obviously of a political interest, given the nature of this individual's public mission. The courts have stated that there seems to be no reason why the news media would NOT have had to ask permission to have images/films published, and therefore the politician was granted compensation.
More information concerning the events in question can be found on the Wikipedia entry for the politician, Kent Ekerith.

Just like politicians?*
Even bearing in mind that the press do not always get their IP facts right, and that Merpel's conversational Swedish and her personal experience of Swedish copyright law and practice are both a bit rusty, she couldn't possibly comment on the accuracy of the press report or the Wikipedia entry.  Having said that, (i) she fails to see in the first place how the politician in question may have a copyright interest in in the images, since it may be unlikely that he took selfies or videos of himself while engaging in those "physical" activities (in which case he would not be the author of the images); (ii) how any interest (including those of a publicity/image right nature) in protecting the proprietary interest of the copyright owner in images of this nature could trump the public interest in appreciating (if that be the right word) the public behaviour in a public space of any of its public representatives -- be they right-wing, left-wing or Monster Raving Loony; so she would not expect to see any injunction granted to stop their publication.

Merpel will be writing to Amelia under separate cover in due course, but in the meantime she encourages any of her Swedish copyright expert readers who can be of assistance in this case to contact Amelia by email here.

* Cover illustration of Cats Behaving Badly, by Celia Haddon (here).

3 comments:

Michael Thesen said...

The Wikipedia article says that the movie was taken with his mobile phone, not by whom. Given that he claims copyright, we may presume that its was a sort of selfie indeed.

From what I understood, the politician / selfie author only claimed reasonable compensation but not foreclosure of the publication. The public interest may give the newspapers a right to distribution but the author still has a right to obtain reasonable compensation for his work.

This should be harmonized copyright law and therefore hold true not only in Sweden but everywhere in Europe. Interesting question would be if there are bars for cases where the author tries to make profit by filming himself by committing criminal acts?

Anonymous said...

Placing veracity on a wikipedia page is questionable.

The point about profiting from one's own negative actions is a good one, but I wonder about the use of "if" in the point, as law is already resplendent with examples of such.

Pekka Gronow said...

I have read some of the Swedish press coverage on this case, and it seems to confirm what is in the Wikipedia. I have not had a chance to consult the court's decision, but the point is that Ekeroth was the maker (and copyright owner) of the film (it is Ekeroth, not Ekerith). He was awarded compensation for the unauthorised use of the film, but the sum was so small that it can be considered symbolic.
However, many questions can still be asked. It is not clear who originally leaked (gave?) the film to the media. It was used by several newspapers and internet sites, but Ekeroth only sued a few of them. If the film had already been published somewhere with Ekeroth's permission, subsequent publications could have been considered quotations. Swedish copyright law does not allow quotations from unpublished works.

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