Anyone know the (UK) law on sales of digital material? at
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Old June 12th, 2007, 02:25 PM   #1
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Location: UK
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Anyone know the (UK) law on sales of digital material?

Hi, I filmed an event recently and a company who participated wanted some footage. Under the assumption the company was going to pay in good faith (big mistake), I posted (unrecorded) the materials (photographs and DV tape) to them, I also sourced some additional photographs for them and had to pay for them off another photographer.

My dillemma is that they now say they don't want the photos + video, but its too late as far as I'm concerned because its not like they can return it (mainly because they will have just copied it and used it anyway).

Does any know the laws on this, and how I can prosecute them, I plan on filing a small claims court order against them to collect the money, but I need to know the legalities on the issue before I bother. I don't really have a lawyer, but I will see if I can contact one for a bit of advise. In the mean time I was hoping you guys could be of assistance.

There must be a sales of goods act for digital material which stipulates this.

The customer didn't sign a contract committing to purchase the goods, the only communication we had was through email, where she had agreed to pay the full value for the goods.

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Old June 12th, 2007, 02:39 PM   #2
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don't know that the UK is any different than anywhere else - get paid up front... or pay later...

You may be able to go to small claims and show that there was an agreement to pay for your services, you delivered, and they failed to pay - again, not sure how that goes in the UK - it's fairly simple in the US, but you may get a judgment and never recover a dime...

Digital delivery is no different from other goods or services. That "product" is so easily "borrowed", stolen, etc opens the door to many issues. The only way to protect yourself is to agree to the "deal" and get the money up front. Otherwise, you're holding the bag as they say...
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Old June 12th, 2007, 03:18 PM   #3
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If UK law resembles US and Canadian you also own the copyright to the images you created unless you worked for someone under a "work for hire" relationship. That means they cannot use the images legally for any purpose without a license from you. So not only should you be able to sue for the breach of the verbal contract (and the record of your emails is evidence that such an agreement existed) should they use the images for any purpose, publically or in-house, you would have a case of action for copyright infringment. Go get 'em!
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Old June 12th, 2007, 08:25 PM   #4
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Under UK law, main elements of a contract are: -

Acceptance and
Consideration (payment).

Also, the parties to the contract must intend to be legally bound.

Another aspect of this is that consideration must not be past. In everyday language, this means that the payment must have been agreed before delivery of the goods (or service). For example, if I was to give you a camcorder, and you were so grateful that you then said you'd send me some money for it, I wouldn't have a valid claim against you if you didn't send me money, because no contract existed.

If you agreed a price for a video or your services, and you kept your side of the bargain, you could well have grounds for a county court claim for breach of contract. If however the video was only sent 'on approval' with no firm agreement or committment of the other person to actually buy it, things could be less straightforward.

Did you agree a price with this company ? If yes, you could have a reasonable chance.

I would advise against using the word 'assumed' in any communication with either the company or in any court proceedings, because this may suggest ambiguity, and hinder your case. As far as a county court judge is concerened, either there was a contract or there wasn't. So if it does end up becoming a court case, it's best to state the facts very clearly. I'm not suggesting that you lie under oath or commit perjury, but if there's something you're not sure of, avoid saying it unless you have to. Get a firm idea in your head of the situation as you see it, and stick to it.

For a claim to have a decent chance of success, it's good to establish that yourself and the company had agreed a price for goods and / or services, that you delivered the goods or services, and that the company has failed to fulfil its side of the contract by paying you.

There are laws regulating the use of copyrighted materials belonging to someone else, but if you were to sue the company on this basis, it might be harder to do because a) it may be harder to prove, and b) the amount claimed would be harder to quantify. If you issue proceedings against a person or company in the county court, ask for (or download) the default summons form. (this is for a specific amount of money). After it is completed and returned to the court, a summons will be sent to the defendant, who then has 14 days from the date of postal service, to either admit, defend or counterclaim. If they do nothing, you would be able to ask the court to enter a judgment against them.

If you do intend to go this route, send the company a letter before action, which just states how much money is owed to you, with a warning that you will issue proceedings unless they pay you within 14 days. If a letter before action is not sent, the defendant could ask the court not to award costs against them, based on the argument that if they had known you intended to take them to court, they would have paid and avoided the court costs. In a lot of instances, things don't get as far as court anyway. Many people (and companies) will pay rather than risk the extra expense of solicitors fees and court costs, so the letter before action often does the trick and can get you paid.
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Old June 13th, 2007, 02:59 AM   #5
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Thanks very much for the quick replies guys. My cousin is 3 years into his law degree and is very convincing at writing letters, so I'll get him to chase it up for me, then I can go down the route of legal action.

Yeah, the customer agreed to pay for the goods prior to recieving them, then I sent them based on those conditions.
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