Rob Illidge, marketing executive at Manchester law firm Ralli explains the implications for the British National Party (BNP) having used the image of the jar of Marmite in their campaign video, and discusses the case Unilever has against the party.
Under English Law, Copyright of an image will usually belong to the photographer that took the photo unless that photographer has made an agreement to the contrary or is taking the shot as part of his duties as an employee (In which case the employer will own the copyright).
Being the owner of copyright, this means that you can restrain other people from copying or using the image without your permission subject to a number of very limited exceptions.
Usually, cases don't go any further than a stern letter and a payment of the appropriate royalty, but here Unilever are clearly determined to separate themselves from any political party, including the BNP.
Unilever, like any other manufacturer, will have a very strict policy on the use of their imagery without a license or permission and employ a number of in-house lawyers to take action against any infringers.
Use of the Marmite image may have saved the BNP time in the short term, however this at a time when organisations are ever increasing their level of brand protection and IP rights.
Defences for copyright infringement are few and far between. The most commonly used is innocent infringement, which requires a defendant to demonstrate that they genuinely believed that there was no copyright or that the period of protection had expired.
Copyright Infringement has made the news in a number of similar cases such as the Hitler Downfall parodies, Viacom/YouTube lawsuit and even with other political parties in their ad campaigns and we will no doubt see more in the future.