Ripped-off photographer in £45k copyright victory

By Dominic Ponsford

A photographer who remortgaged his house to fight a three-year
copyright battle against a magazine publisher has won a £45,000 payout.

Chris Tofalos said the true cost of the infringement by English
Basketball had been estimated at more than £200,000 – but he had been
advised to take the cash rather than face a risky court case.

He
said: “I would have much preferred that we went to court and got a
ruling on the matter because photographers are being ripped off by
publishers all the time.

“Some of the biggest newspapers you can think of will happily use pictures you have sent them in the past and not pay for them.”

When legal costs are added, English Basketball is likely to face a bill for more than £100,000.

Tofalos began working for the sport’s governing body in 1997 and produced its magazine Zone Press for three years.

After
a change of management he lost the contract but later found out that
English Basketball had continued to use his photos without permission.

With
the help of the NUJ he secured a £7,500 payout in July 2001 and an
agreement concerning the fees to be paid if English Basketball used his
pictures again without permission.

A year later, Tofalos found
that the Government-funded body was “at it again”. His pictures had
been used in its magazine, in a book and in its annual report.

He
found that under the agreement it had signed, it owed up to
£129,000.Tofalos went to the NUJ for help after his legal fees crept
above £5,000 and he had to remortage his house.

The legal dispute
dragged on for a further two years, during which time he found English
Basketball had continued to break his copyright and that the total it
owed him was £218,000.

The matter was due to go to court on 11 August but Tofalos was advised to settle after the £45,000 offer was made.

He estimated that over 200 images were used without permission.

He
said: “They just couldn’t stop. Basically they would have had a
pretty crap magazine without my pictures and they have subsequently
ceased production of it.”

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