New Idea warns rivals not to rip off exclusive Brangelina wedding snaps in legal letter

Women’s magazine New Idea has taken the unusual step of sending a legal letter to rival publications and news outlets warning them not to use its Australian exclusive images of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s wedding, suggesting even the Copyright Act’s fair dealing clause would not be a defence for reproducing them.

Images of last weekend’s secret wedding taken from international magazines have already appeared on Aussie publications including The GuardianNovaFMThe Sydney Morning Herald and These include People’s cover revealing Jolie’s dress and a shot of the family and the Hello! world exclusive which featured the couple’s kiss. They are also circulating widely on social media, and have featured on Australian TV shows.

The Australia and New Zealand exclusive images are understood to have been part of a bidding war between rival publishers, with the legal letter sent yesterday afternoon stating Pacific Magazines acquired them for “a substantial consideration” and warning rival bidders “any reproduction in tear form or otherwise could not satisfy the fundamental requirements of fair dealing”. The photos will run in a 14-page special in the magazine on sale tomorrow.

The exclusive rights apply to specific images of the couple with their children, at the ceremony and kissing each other during the ceremony, of Angelina and daughter Vivienne in their respective dresses together, and of Angelina in her dress showing drawings done by her children.

Publisher Fiona Legdin said in a statement: “This is a great win for New Idea. Pacific Magazines will be the only Australian publisher to release these exclusive images and reiterates our agility and commitment to report on significant world events.”

However, media law expert Stephen von Muenster warned the laws surrounding fair dealing are “subject to interpretation”, telling Mumbrella: “Anyone who reproduces them online or in print would be technically infringing copyright if they were using them for commercial purposes or for purposes that don’t have a fair dealing exception that applies. The starting position is that yes there would be an infringement if they were produced.

“News organisations have an exception for fair dealing for reporting the news. But fair dealing has to strictly comply with the relevant section of the Copyright Act; it’s got to be fair, it’s got to be genuinely reporting the news,” he added.

“The problem is the relevant section of the Copyright Act is a case by case basis and it is subject to interpretation by the courts and what is reasonable. The use has to be fair and reasonable in the circumstances. There isn’t a strict test in the Copyright Act, it is simply what is reasonable at the time.”

The legal letter adds: “Pacific will not hesitate to institute proceedings if there is any actual or threatened infringement of its rights.”

von Muenster said publications which had already reproduced images from US magazines would be ok, providing they “were applying the relevant fair dealing provisions”.

However, he said Pacific would need to be careful when sending out letters such as this one to not “fall into the trap of liability under section 202”.

“Under the Copyright Act under section 202 it is actionable for someone to make a groundless threat of copyright infringement when there is no reasonable basis to make it. Someone who is threatened by someone who says there is an infringement and they suffer loss under that, for example they don’t publish an article or they withdraw something, can bring action against the person who made the threat in the first place.

An example of the watermarked images released by News Corp

An example of the watermarked images released by News Corp

“If they were going to actually go after an individual publisher for a particular use they would need to bear in mind section 202 of the Copyright Act because if they get it wrong the other publisher could come back at them.”

Pacific Magazines declined to comment further on the letter.

Issues around fair dealing and use of images on the internet have been highlighted recently in high-profile stoushes between News Corp and the Daily Mail, whilst News Corp took the unusual step of heavily watermarking its exclusive images of the James Packer-David Gyngell fight which were then circulated on social media and featured in other media outlets.

Miranda Ward




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