Fraser wins round two in pic rights row

By Ian Reeves

Round two of Jason Fraser’s copyright battle with the BBC and the
company behind Big Brother has gone to the photographer, who has been
told by a senior law lord that his appeal has a “real prospect” of
success.

Fraser sued after the BBC One series Tabloid Tales, fronted by Piers
Morgan and produced by Brighter Pictures – owned by Endemol – included
footage containing 14 of Fraser’s pictures of celebrities including
Victoria and David Beckham.

But having lost the case in March,
when Mr Justice Mann ruled that the use of the images constituted fair
dealing, Fraser’s team applied directly to the Court of Appeal.

Now
Lord Justice Mummery has given him the green light. In a written
ruling, he said: “The proposed appeal has a real prospect of success
and raises points of general importance on the scope of the fair
dealing defence.”

Fraser believes he is now in a position to
prove that the programme, which looked at the way celebrities were
treated by the tabloids was not a piece of balanced criticism, review
or news reporting – the requirements for a successful “fair dealing”
defence. He claims that subjects of the programme, who included
Victoria Beckham, always knew that they would be shown in a positive
light.

He told Press Gazette: “There’s nothing remotely enjoyable
about going to the High Court as a claimant. I don’t see myself
standing on the barricades waving the flag of freedom, but there is a
very important principle involved. I don’t like seeing anybody’s work
ripped off under the guise of criticism and review.”

However, he
added: “It beggars belief that this impasse can’t be sorted out
practically, pragmatically and fairly. Sometimes in life you think
you’re right, sometimes you hope you’re right. This is one of the few
occasions where I know I’m right.

“I have never had a problem
with the BBC. If they had done their own picture research on this
programme, I suspect it would not have come to this. If Endemol want to
have a sensible chat with me, I’m all ears. I can’t be more direct than
that. No posturing; you know how to get hold of me.

I would be
very excited if we could find a constructive outcome. But if we don’t
all get off the train now, we’re going straight on to the appeal court.
If I have to, then I will.”

Fraser has pledged that any copyright
fees would go towards the NPF’s renovation project of its care home for
retired journalists in Dorking.

He remains a powerful presence in
the national newspaper world. Last week his pictures appeared on 11
national newspaper front pages and he is an influential force with
editors.

Fraser, a long-term NUJ member, also has support from
agencies including Matrix, which joined him in blocking the BBC from
using their libraries, and from the National Association of Press
Agencies, whose photographers representative Richard Lappas said:
“There are many who will feel this is more about trying to stop or at
least slow down the degenerate way in which some media organisations
treat freelance photographers.”

The BBC has already settled with
Fraser over its unauthorised use of two of his pictures of Paul
McCartney and his wife Heather Mills in another edition of Tabloid
Tales. The money was donated to Heather Mills’ landmine charity.

Endemol, which is preparing for a stock market flotation, did not comment.

A
BBC spokeswoman said: “We successfully defended the entire claim at the
High Court in March and will be robustly defending the appeal at the
Court of Appeal.”

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