UK copyright law wades in on photoshopping

A UK court has ventured into the matter of digital copyright infringement claiming that it is possible to copy the idea of a photograph.

According to Amateur Photographer magazine, Judge Birss QC has made an interesting ruling which should put the fear of god in a lot of photoshoppers out there.

The judge concluded that  Justin Fielder had created an original image by taking a black and white picture of a double decker bus going across the Thames in front of Big Ben. Fielder then coloured the bus red.

New English Teas apparently used a similar image on its products. It was a different bus, and taken from a different angle but it used a black and white background with a photoshopped red bus. You can see the snaps here .

Judge Birss said that the person responsible for the New English Teas image was aware of Mr Fielder’s image, as the two sides had met in court before.

But what is interesting from a legal perspective is that Birss has ruled that if a photograph uses the same ideas as another it can be in breach of copyright. The photograph itself does not have to be the same.

Jane Lambert, a barrister specialising in intellectual property law, wrote in her bog that she feels uneasy at Judge Birss’s decision as it comes close to protecting copyright in an idea as opposed to expression.