Sussex cops try to suppress publication of damning traffic-cam photos by claiming copyright

The Sussex, England police are trying to suppress publication of images from speed cameras -- images that show technical shortcomings in the cameras -- by claiming that they are copyrighted. Copyright is meant to protect creativity; I'm not sure who the aggrieved artist is meant to be here. Is there some tortured constable who spent hours on a ladder getting the composition of the camera's shots just right?
"It has been brought to our attention that the photographs from the Gatso camera, produced for your recent court case, have been published on TheNewspaper.com website," Sussex Police Solicitor Alexandra Karrouze wrote to Barker in a June 28 letter. "The content of these photographs are the property of Sussex Police and publication of them is a breach of copyright. They should be removed from the website forthwith. If they are not removed further action may be contemplated."

Sussex Police did not send any copyright notice to TheNewspaper, nor did Karrouze respond to requests for clarification and comment. The agency became particularly upset with Barker in May after he threatened legal action against the Sussex Speed Camera Partnership for insisting that he had been speeding even after his court acquittal. The agency had no choice but to issue a swift apology.

"The partnership accept that such an assertion should not have been made and have apologized unreservedly to Mr Barker for this error," the partnership said in a statement.

Barker believes that the local council and police do not want motorists to know that a time-distance calculation can be performed on the images to check the vehicle's speed against the radar reading. A difference of more than ten percent between the two figures renders the machine's speed estimate "unreliable" under UK guidelines.

UK Council Considers Speed Camera Photos Copyrighted (Thanks, Richard!)

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  1. No, no, no Cory, you’re missing the point. The police are protecting the emergent AI within the traffic cam network which is trying to express itself creatively.

    Pity the poor thing. So far it’s been limited to blinking out the lyrics to “Smiths” songs in morse code using traffic lights.

  2. This being the same Sussex police that were found to be the most corrupt police force in the country?

  3. Slightly off topic – there are many hundreds if not tens of thousands of GATSO speed cameras which have NEVER had their power supply units calibrated.

    The camera units themselves are sent across the North Sea to the Netherlands for calibration, shipped back and then reinstalled. There are plenty of Boingers who will understand the implications here.

    There are some members of a UK motoring site who have good legal, professional and technical standing – and luckily for us UK drivers, they are pursuing this calibration matter via the courts.

  4. I thought it was public knowledge that the reason they have lines on the road is so they can check your speed manually if you dispute the speed camera reading.

  5. Copyright! Lovely! Here they are been applying a faulty and inaccurate system for so long and they swing up with copyright! That country air sure must be chock-full o’ horse shit, because that’s all this is!

    Sussex – arh! Get orf moi land!

  6. WalterBillington:
    Why on earth are you behaving as though Sussex is a rural place? The South East is one of the most densely populated parts of Britain, while the Mummerset accent is supposed to be West Country, rather than the Home Counties….

    (Anon. grew up in Sussex, now lives in darkest Devon. It’s like putting on a mockney accent for a Welsh miner.)

  7. Whoah there boingers! You do know that two clicks through from your article you get to this page http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/pix/uk-sussexltr.jpg which includes the poor sad idiotic lawyers email address?!?! Now, much as I love harrangueing those who willfully abuse legal frameworks, this is probably a junior clerk in an office in the frankly parochial town of Lewes (not even the bustling metropolis of Brighton) who is about to have a shit storm of abuse hit her inbox from the four corners of the bloggoshere. Maybe that’s ok, maye not, but perhaps we ought to think a little about that.

  8. I call shenanigans the on claim of copyright ownership. I fail to see either an artistic work, or something involving expenditure of effort or skill.

  9. @#5
    “think a little” as in “do it”

    Ask this unfortunate lawyer what material damage is caused by what she alleges to be copyright infringement. Are the cops expecting to earn further revenue from licensing this image elsewhere? Revenue which will be diluted if it is left on this website? If so, we should be told, if not, where’s the harm?

  10. Dear Sirs at Speed Camera Cash Cow Inc:

    On May 20th, 2009, I produced a exclusive series of artistically inspired portraits of my vehicle. I have initiated a copyright on said photography, and any derivative works, such as your photo taken 6/15/08, are in violation of my copyright.

    I have a agreement with other owners of the same make and model vehicle for sharing of this copyright. As a designated representative of this group, I must insist that you cease and desist in continuing to photograph our unique and protected design.

    We expect compliance with this notice, in that all photographs of Honda A300 MiniMax are in violation of a protected creative work and no further publication be permitted in any form.

    Any future violation of these terms will be considered infringement and will be met with legal action.

    Yours sincerely etc., William Knickers.

  11. If you push the button that triggers the picture being taken, you own the copyright. So don’t the drivers own the copyright?

    I’m not entirely serious, of course; In the case where the bulk of the work is setting up the equipment, just pushing the button doesn’t make someone the owner. Still…

    And isn’t there some legal principle in the US about work produced by the federal government being in the public domain? Whatever drives that principle should be enough to keep police in the UK from making copyright claims on their “work”, I would guess. That is, if the Law made sense…

  12. Ask this unfortunate lawyer what material damage is caused by what she alleges to be copyright infringement. Are the cops expecting to earn further revenue from licensing this image elsewhere?i just found this amazing website, it has all kind of businesses

  13. *face palm*

    And while I’m not about to bother this lawyer myself I’m not sure I’d condemn someonw doing it. After all, it seems this is one of those “sue first, find out if there’s a law that supports you later” lawyers. All lawyers who file legal claims with no legal grounding should be charged with contempt of court since really, that’s what it is.

  14. Crown Copyright is really all that needs to be said, terrible idea, always was, always will be.

  15. @#10: Yes, anything produced by the US federal government is in the public domain (though the government is allowed to own copyrights that are transferred to it). As near as I can tell, though, in the UK works of the government are protected by “Crown copyright.” In other words, Yes, the government does appear to own the copyright in these works.

    As for those deriding the copyright issue by saying the photos aren’t “artistic”: Since when does that matter? Who are you to decide what’s artistic? Does this mean that William Eggleston’s photos are deserving of copyright protection, but my vacation snapshots aren’t? What if someone takes my vacation snapshots and does something artistic with them? Or uses them in an advertisement?

    This discussion is enlightening. If nothing else, I thought we could all agree that laws are supposed to apply to everyone equally. Blind justice, and all that. Apparently that doesn’t apply when it’s the Big Bad Scary Government.

  16. Baldy:

    I don’t know if a lawyer could be charged with “contempt of court” before the case has even gone to court (I’ll have to check with my attorney on that one). But legal malpractice is certainly an option here, provided the attorney’s client has been harmed by her actions.

  17. wait wait wait!!!

    Surely if the car is driven through the camera zone as a performance, then the driver has the copyright to that performance? And hence the imagery of?

    C’mon … make it work!

    Sorry, I also grew up in Sussex. As buckshot whizzed over my head as I fled arse-up from poaching strawberries, I never really had time or inclination to figure out exactly what was being shouted, but Viz’s farmer seemed to fit the bill nicely.

    As for being densely populated – maybe compared to the Sahara.

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