Controversial Australian artist Richard Belly has won $AUD 147, 000 from American film maker Tanya Steele, who forced the temporary removal of a trailer for his film "The Blackfella's Guide to New York" from the Web site of Milani, the artist's Brisbane gallery.
Bell had employed Tanya to assist him in his shoot for a fixed time and also paid for the services she rendered him. However, Tanya later claimed she owned the copyright of the footage and also demanded the hosting Web site Vimeo remove the trailer.
In response to Tanya's claim, Steele went to the Australian courts, who argued "Bell had lost the opportunity to sell some of his works, which typically cost tens of thousands of dollars, as a result of Steele's threats", according to Slashdot.
"It is clear the client made groundless threats against both the applicant and his agent, Mr Milani," the court ruled according to SMH.
"This is the first time damages have been awarded where a third party had content removed from the internet without legal justification. Even though the Vimeo file was hosted outside of Australia, its improper removal caused Mr Bell significant damage in Australia," the artist's solicitor, John Swinson of King & Wood Mallesons, said.
The solicitor also made an important reference to the photos taken from the Internet, saying the judgement would be a landmark for future cases.
"This decision will have an effect in relation to photos on Facebook pages. You might not like the photo of you, but you can't improperly say to Facebook that you own the photo to have it taken down. The person who takes the photo owns the copyright in most circumstances, not the person in the photo. The fact that Tanya Steele failed to appear in court is extremely relevant, because it shows that the threats were unjustified. This is what makes the case even more unique. It is a precedent about a person who makes threats and does not go to court to back them up. Tanya was not actually the filmmaker. She was a director or co-director at best. She did not hold any cameras. [However] Richard has agreements signed by the two cameramen assigning copyright to Richard," Swinson said to SMH.
Richard Bell seemed happy with the verdict but was pretty annoyed he lost sales because of Tanya.
"I've spent a fortune on this b****y thing, this film. I'll just go back and shoot it again and this time get some Aussies to help me," Bell told The Sun-Herald.