Sir Rod Stewart sued for using photo of himself

Sir Rod Stewart is facing a copyright claim by a photographer who says Stewart used her image, of the singer and an ex-girlfriend, without her permission.

Julia McLellan has issued a claim for £9,999.99 (which is the small claims limit) against the singer at Chelmsford County Court over Stewart’s use of the picture as a backdrop at one of his gigs.

Ms McLellan claims to have repeatedly sought a fee for use of the image in 2015, but was refused, and brought the claim after attempts at settlement failed.

The photograph in question was used on a video backdrop at BBC2’s Live in Hyde Park: A Festival in a Day concert.

It was taken by Sir Rod’s school friend, Christopher Southwood, from whom Ms McLellan claims to have acquired the copyright in 2004.

She says that although Mr Southwood gave Sir Rod a copy of the photograph as a keepsake, that did not permit him to make commercial use of it.

In his Defence to the claim, Sir Rod’s team said it should be rejected for “an absurd level of damages for a totally innocent, brief and incidental use by Sir Rod of a personal snapshot as part of another, more substantial, artistic work”.

The Judge encouraged the parties to mediate, saying that the claim “has got tears written all over it”.

This is the latest in a series of claims brought against celebrities who have used images in which they feature, but where they are not the copyright owner.

Queen guitarist Brian May was briefly banned from Instagram last year after a photographer reported him to the photo sharing service for posting an image of him at a concert without permission or credit.

Similarly, model Gigi Hadid faced a copyright infringement claim after she posted an uncredited paparazzo picture of herself on Instagram, which the photographer had licensed to the media, but not given her permission to use.

The legal complaints underline the importance of distinguishing between the subject of a photograph, or the person who has published it on social media, and the copyright owner from whom permission must be obtained for its use.  Content producers should not assume that material posted on personal pages within social media sites by celebrities and others is that person’s copyright.