Saturday, 4 February 2012

Cautionary tales

Two legal items caught my eye this week, and reinforce the care needed when building web sites.

The first is a copyright infringement case heard in the Patents Small Claims Court, which provides a 'low cost' route to justice in intellectual property cases in the UK. In this case (Hoffman v Drug Abuse Resistance Education (UK) Ltd [2012]) a charity web site had included some photographs illustrating types of drug. The web designers and their client believed that the photographs belonged to the UK government (and they had been used on a government drug information site) and as a result could be used on this web site. Unfortunately this was not the case as they were copyright of a long-established photojournalist named David Hoffman and no permission had been given for their use in this way.

The photographer successfully took action for copyright infringement against the charity who published the web site and the judge calculated and awarded damages. The judgement is clearly set out and makes useful and interesting reading.

In the book we recommend that you don't necessarily believe it when your client says that assets are cleared for their web site. You are probably aware that most contracts that involve clearance of assets include some kind of indemnity and that this, in turn, should be covered by professional indemnity insurance. I should add that if whoever had used Mr Hoffman's photos originally had included correct rights metadata with the image this whole show could have been avoided. So that's another good reason for making sure images on your web sites have appropriate metadata.

A few days ago the RNIB initiated legal action against the bmibaby airline over accessibility (or lack thereof) on their web site. Apparently this has been ongoing for some time and the impression I get is that the RNIB felt the airline had been given enough time to fix the accessibility issues but there had been no progress.

I suspect many of us thought that accessibility was no longer the problem it was a few years ago and that the basic techniques were now common practice. In any event, with more and more web sites using content management systems the feeling would be that the CMS would do the heavy lifting on accessibility as it does on other things. Clearly we, and our clients, should not get complacent.