Statement From BAPLA on THJ v. Sheridan

A response to the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in the case of THJ vs Sheridan

BAPLA has been contacted by a number of its Members seeking feedback over the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in the case of THJ vs Sheridan.  BAPLA has sought external and independent legal advice on this case and can provide the following clarification.

The case deals with a software dispute and discusses copyright protection of graphic interfaces. While not applicable to photographs directly, the ruling restates the legal test determining copyright protection of all kinds of visual works, including photographs. The test has been applied by English courts since 2009 and, in short, grants copyright protection to works which are original, i.e., bear the marks of the author’s own intellectual creation. The originality resides, in particular, in the free and creative choices made by the photographer when creating the photograph, whether in setting up the scene, or in post-production.

It’s crucial to remember that the debate over copyright and whether a content owner charges for images are separate issues. The effort and cost expended in creating an image that’s been expertly lit, colour-managed, captioned and catalogued can be recouped through licensing or service fees regardless of its copyright status.

The THJ vs Sheridan case does not change this basic fact. It has simply highlighted the enduring and complex question of what qualifies as “original” under copyright law.

Content creators and owners can charge for the use of images, irrespective of its visual content, and do so under multiple legal frameworks, whether that be Charity law, pre-Brexit EU legislations or current UK legislation governing National collections.

BAPLA Members are invited to contact BAPLA with any additional questions.