Lawyers acting for a photography enthusiast have claimed victory in an international copyright wrangle after his wildlife image was used on an overseas stamp without his consent.
Keen wildlife photographer Mark Johnson won an undisclosed sum from the New York-based Inter-Governmental Philatelic Corporation (IGPC) after a dispute over the publication of his photograph of a rare snail.
?This was a David and Goliath case,? said Peter Harrison a lawyer from Leeds-based firm Walker Morris which was asked to represent Mark by his attorneys in North Carolina.
The image appeared on a set of stamps issued on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, prompting lawyers to take action against IGPC, a stamp agency they claimed had designed and produced the series on behalf of the island without seeking Mark?s permission.
Though Mark is a US citizen, Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory.
Mark?s photograph depicts a pair of Florida Tree Snails, one of which had a ?normal?, right-hand spiral shell while the other was ?sinistral? – displaying a left-hand spiral which experts consider rare. To find the two side-by-side is particular unusual.
The picture was published as part of a series of stamps called the ?Molluscs of the Caribbean?.
Announcing the copyright victory, Harrison added: ?Mark Johnson is one individual and IGPC is a global corporation. The case may seem small and light-hearted but it illustrates an important principle of international copyright law; that individuals have a right for their work to be protected.?
We understand that in return for recognition of his copyright and his role as a photographer, Mark has now given his permission for the stamps to be produced and sold.
Patrick Cantrill, who heads the intellectual property group at Walker Morris told AP that the British lawyers applied the Bern Convention, an agreement made between member countries to protect copyright on an international basis.
At the time of writing AP had not received comment from IGPC on the case.
?We asked the IGPC to acknowledge Mark as the rightful owner of this rare and possibly unique image and to pay him a sum in settlement based on a royalty of all stamps sold. This they did,? continued Harrison.
?Our client is happy with the settlement and has given his permission for the image to be used by IGPC.?
Mark, a former US Army major, is understood to have stumbled across the stamps by pure chance while staying in the Caribbean.