back to article Texan smut baron spanked over UK schoolgirl snap

A porn baron was served with an expensive reminder last week that the courts take a dim view of companies ripping off other people's creative work. A court in Tampa, Florida ruled against Texan pornographer Robert Burge and his company TVX, and gave almost $130,000 in damages to 21-year-old UK fashion photographer Lara Jade …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    "Coton was therefore not amused to learn, shortly after" - exactly, how did she find this out ? Of all the DVD images, on all the sites on the internet, she found it ? What are the chances ?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Read the related material!

      The photographer said: "I found the image at the age of seventeen when someone informed me on DeviantART it had been stolen. I had NO idea that my work was being used in this way."

    3. Adrian Jones

      Well, if you'd read the page that was linked to in the article...

      "I found the image at the age of seventeen when someone informed me on DeviantART it had been stolen."

    4. Alan 6


      Check the flickr link in the story ( and all will be explained...

    5. W. Keith Wingate

      The global village is smaller than we think

      If you click the link in the article the young lady explains (vaguely) how it came to her attention.

      Suffice it to say, once you get more than a few dozen "friends" on facebook or LinkedIn connections, you really notice the effect of the combinatorial explosion that represents: Desmond in London knows Takeshi in Tokyo? I had no idea... When people find you in unsuspected places, they do let you know.

      I'm pleasantly surprised to see a US court do the right thing for a change, you go girl!

    6. gef05

      who cares?

      your point is - what?

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Luckily I never pay for porn.

    Handing money to these guys would be too much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And that's a puzzling thing..

      With the internet having effectively democratised the process of onanism, and the means of production, distribution and consumption of the desired media now being firmly in the hands of the consumer (that doesn't sound right.. never mind.. carry on), how is it that "porn barons" can continue to make money? Who exactly *is* paying for it? And why?

  3. Lottie

    Good on her!

    If the image is on the net, the photographer -unless stated in the hosting TOS- retains copyright.

    A pint for her sticking it to the man

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "You can’t just go and steal an image that doesn’t belong to you and use it for commercial gain "

    Lovely penguin icon, yours for £29.99

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lovely penguin icon, yours for £29.99

      Oooo. I've got a bunch of friends who use linux. I'll take 12.

      <-- I see you gave me the first one free! Thanx

  5. Rogerborg

    Pfft, it was a default judgement

    In other words, the smutmonger has decided not to play. This is generally the best response to the legal system, since if you play, everybody (except the lawyers) loses.

    If the young... uh... lady in question ever sees one red cent out of this, let alone real currency, I'll eat my top hat.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      @ Rogerborg

      What do you mean, "young... uh... lady"? You seem to be implying that she isn't a "young lady" for no good reason. That is quite offensive. What do have against her?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Unfortunately this case rather proves that it's pretty pointless fighting copyright infringement of this sort. Who is going to consider it worth starting an international copyright infringement case when you're only likely to make about two and a half grand back? Against how much expense should you fail?

    The headline figure here is for defamation, which is fair enough since anybody seeing that DVD cover would think it safe to assume that the girl pictured had a starring role. Most amateur photographers suing for copyright infringement would not be in the position where there was potential to make that sort of money for defamation.

    It's not just the porn industry, but the "legitimate" media who are appropriating content in this way. Furthermore I've had to explain to people at work on several occasions that Flickr isn't clip art.

    The big puzzle about this case however is what would happen if a 17 year old Brit decided to breach the copyright of a porn production company. As the law stands at the moment s/he could serve time for the "crime". OTOH if the company breaches the copyringt of the private individual then it costs them a few grand. Methinks the law needs to be rebalanced.

    1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

      Thumbs up

      I think this case justice has been served, as best as can be done given the circumstances.

      All too often we are critical about lawyers (some of them overtly evil ie Apple's lawyers and the word pod etc).

      Sometimes, the justice system and some lawyers involved do get it right however and they remember perhaps the noble intent of the legal system, to right injustices and ensure the small fry have representation and recourse, and not just line the pockets of big evil corporations or acquiesce to the will of governments.

      Here is a beer to those few. I salute you.

    2. David Hicks

      Who's going to start a case for two and a half grand?

      Ummm, anyone?

      If you have a legal firm willing to work on a no-win-no-fee basis and they come to you and say they'll get you a few grand if they win at no cost to you but the odd letter and a bit of effort helping us get the case straight now and then...

      I would, wouldn't you?

      And in this case there were 130 grand awarded. I'm sure the lawyers will take a nice chunk of that, but I wouldn't be turning my nose up at half or even quarter of that figure.

    3. gef05

      the case was taken on a contingency-fee basis


  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. MinionZero

    Copyright ...

    @"Coton had not registered the copyright of her picture in the US, which is a usual requirement for proceeding in respect of copyright in the US"

    That isn't according to the WIPO i.e. (World Intellectual Property Organization). (The WIPO currently has 184 member states of which the US signed on March 6, 2002).

    In response to the FAQ as follows, i.e. "Do you need to register to be protected?"

    They respond as follows:

    "Copyright itself does not depend on official procedures. A created work is considered protected by copyright as soon as it exists. According to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, literary and artistic works are protected without any formalities in the countries party to that Convention. Thus, WIPO does not offer any kind of copyright registration system."

    Anyway, hope she does get the money, that company sound very unscrupulous.

    1. Pablo

      My understanding:

      My understanding is that in the US, if you don't register your copyright, you can't get punitive damages, only compensatory damages, i.e. the amount they "should have" paid to use the art legally. That would be why the part of the judgment for the actual infringement was so low I guess.

    2. Jon 37

      Copyright registration

      Under US law, if you haven't registered your copyright, you get whatever damages you can prove. If you have registered your copyright, you can ask for "statutory damages" instead, which can be huge. Statutory damages are usually in the range $750-$30,000 per work, but in exceptional cases can be as low as $200 or as high as $150,000.

      This is why a company ripping off an individual's (unregistered) photo only has to pay $4,173.20, but filesharer downloading (registered) music tracks have to pay $9,250 per song ($54,000 total for 24 songs).

    3. Mark 121

      True, but

      §412 of the 1976 Copyright Act provides that statutory damages and attorney's fees cannot normally be claimed in respect of unregistered works. Perhaps this explains the very small amount granted as damages for the copyright infringement - this could be the total profit made by the company.

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge


        ... it is just another example of how piss-poor US IP laws are. They protect the big companies, not the small person.

        Actually, before someone else does it , I'll correct myself - "It is just another example of how piss-poor US laws are".*

        * Yes, I know that the US is not the only one with such laws, but they do seem to do them with so much verve.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    History of the image

    Reading at the other end of the link, she was 14 when she took the picture.

    TVX must count themselves lucky they didn't get pulled up for using a picture of a minor.

    1. Woodgar

      only 14

      You know, that was my thought when reading the story.

      They used a photo of a 14 year old girl to promote a porn film, and no one in the legal team thought to bring that up?

    2. ph0b0s


      Didn't Nuts, Loaded or some other lads mag publish pictures of a busty 16 or 17 year old girl last year and no-one batted much of an eyelid? Now I know in both cases no nudity was shown. But in both cases the pictures aren't there for exactly wholesome reasons...

      Like in this case, I would have thought that the last thing the guy would have had to worry about was copyright issues, as the public would have been at his door with pitch forks and torches after hearing one of his porn videos featured a 14 year old on the cover. Would have thought it would have been the top story on Fox News. But no, odd...

  10. Paolo Marini


    so, if I happen to have taken the same exact picture of the landscape used in Windows XP, what is my chance of getting a compensation?

    they could have used a similar-looking model and same colour of curtains... copyright laws do not prevent other people from reaching the same result independently... it's not like someone have an exclusivity on taking pictures with a hat and curtains... unless you claim it was really Coton's picture, which the publisher clearly didn't care about...

    let me explain: two different people can take a picture of the same car (same brand, same model) and both independently claim copyright on the results. the fact that it has to be registered in the country where the infringement happened is just an example of a clumsy judicial system... once it's on the Internet... how do you register it in all the countries where it is accessible from??

    1. Zippy the Pinhead

      @Paolo Marini


      Each camera adds extra info to the pictures you take. If the info in my image and in your image matches then one of us has a stolen image.

      1. Just Thinking

        Only applies to the original file

        By the time you have colour corrected the image, cropped and rescaled it, placed it on a page with other graphics, then resaved the whole page as a halftoned bitmap in an entirely different format - where exactly is the extra info the camera added?

        1. foxyshadis

          An odd question

          In that case, you may have essentially sampled/remixed the photo, so it's no longer provable that it has any provenance and possibly falls under fair use anyway, so you're off the hook. If it did come up, you could just supply your original - if it was even possible to take an exactly identical photo, which it really isn't. In the end, if you can't convince the judge with some evidence, you get screwed, even if you were right all along.

          But in any case, why would you consider contorting your actions to such great lengths just to take a nearly identical picture? It sounds more like asking "how far do I have to go to hide the fact that I ripped off a photo" - you have to change it enough that it isn't recognizably the original anymore, in effect making it a new piece of work anyway.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    see pic here ..

  12. Don Casey

    not to mention....

    Aside from the photo, her image ITSELF is in many jurisdictions copyrighted; a photographer cannot use an image of a person for a commercial work unless there is a release, or the image falls into the "educational or editorial" category. Neither applies here.

    Defendant most definately screwed (and should be).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's not "copyright", I think

      It's true that in some jurisdictions you need permission to use someone's image in some cases. However, this isn't because of "copyright", as far as I know. Wikipedia calls it "personality right" or "right of publicity".

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    put a watermark across your images, problem solved.

    1. Ammaross Danan


      Fully agreed. A Watermark is a great way to ensure that your work is not used without your express consent. Some people feel it defaces their work to have some latent watermark partially obscuring the center (or important) part of their work, but unfortunately, it's practically a necessity. DeviantART is a great place to share images, and I've seen many use watermarks on their posted artwork. Perhaps Deviant, Flickr, et al should help protect their users by defaulting pictures to have watermarks (which can be changed via user setting).

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lara Jade?

    They're lucky they didn't get a lightsaber up the arse.

    1. MeRp


      I think you'll find that's Mara Jade.. at best I guess Lara Jade might be a cross between Lara Croft and Mara Jade. Hmm interesting intersection of personalities...

    2. bolccg

      Perhaps you mean...


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Of course I mean Mara

        However, if el reg runs a story by Hester Lanes then I will assume Lester has some reason for not putting his name on it officially but doesn't mind people knowing unofficially.

        I would also bet, given the dates involved, that one or both of her parents read the Thrawn trilogy shortly before her birth. Lara is 17, the final book of the trilogy, which introduced Mara, was published 17 years ago.

  15. Richard Porter

    Getting Permission

    "if you’re going to steal images online then people WILL find out and they CAN sue you!"

    One of the problems is that image hosting sites like Flickr make it extremely difficult to contact the photographer to get permission. At the very least you have to open an account, log in and use their messaging service.

    Recently I wanted to use a photo on Flickr, and there was a link to request a licence from Getty Images. I clicked the link only to be told that the Getty Images site didn't support my browser and I couldn't get any further. Well if that's their attitude ... It's easier to obtain forgiveness than permission, and I'm not exploiting the image for commercial purposes.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You call this "difficult"?

      "At the very least you have to open an account, log in and use their messaging service."


      "I clicked the link only to be told that the Getty Images site didn't support my browser and I couldn't get any further." Annoying, yes, but hey, justification for theft? No.

      And once upon a time we had to, err... type letters and send them in the post, and really, really, *hard* stuff like that.

      1. Lionel Baden

        i remeber that shit

        I hate posting letters :(

        had to do it the other day to send somebody a copy of windows.

        Took me 3 days to get round to doing it !!


    2. John Wilson

      Commercial purposes?

      If your not using the image for commercial purposes, then why didn't you just set up an account, and send the photographer a message? Would almost certainly been cheaper than getting a Getty license, and you wouldn't be infringing on the photographer's copyright rights. I've got a couple of photos of athletes on Flickr who wanted to use them for their own use. They wrote to me, and I said "Sure! In fact, give me an e-mail address and I'll send you a higher resolution image. And come to think of it, I've got a couple more of you if you want them". (Naturally, with the added proviso that I still retain full copyright on my images, and I'm granting them a specific license for their own use)

      The fact that you're not exploiting it for commercial purposes is utterly irrelevant: if the image is copyright, and is not specifically licensed for non-commercial uses, your use is still infringing.

      (Fail because, seriously, you couldn't even be bothered to send the photographer a message, or let them know you liked their image?!)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's funny

      As it seems Getty Images believe it's easier litigate than accept letters/emails.

      Usually around £1500 per violation. And then don't knuckle wrap. They are ruthless.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fail fest

    Did they really think that they would sell porn with that cover? That surely shows the wisdom of a person who would respect IP.

  17. SirTainleyBarking

    Should have gone to Texas

    Using a picture of a MINOR on the cover of a porno DVD. That should get the owner his own personal room with a nice gentleman called Bubba, though if he's one of the "Good Ol' Boys" he's probably above the law

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually Flickr can be used for clipart

    So long as it is not for commercial gain. For example, anyone can take an image from Flickr and use it internally, say, for a PowerPoint presentation, as many people do all over the world all the time.

    As long as your not ripping off someone else's hard work for your own personal gain or damaging the right holder's reputation, there's no real problem.

    1. David Hicks

      I'm sorry, what?

      Under what legislation or contract are you doing that?

      "As long as your not ripping off someone else's hard work for your own personal gain or damaging the right holder's reputation, there's no real problem."

      Yes, there is, using other people's images without their permission, especially in a corporate setting, which is pretty much by definition "for profit"

      Stop, now. Go find some creative commons, public domain or free stock images. Flickr is not what you think it is.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "That's why you're the client and I'm the... law talkin' guy.."

      "As long as your(sic) not ripping off someone else's hard work for your own personal gain or damaging the right holder's reputation, there's no real problem"

      ..and what planet do you come from, precisely?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugs R Us and David Hicks

      Not everything on FlickR is All Rights Reserved (David) and not everything is creative commons (Bugs). Check the license, that's what it's there for - it allows the person uploading the image to specify the license terms for their image.

      Mine, if I recall correctly, are Creative Commons and I allow downloads... but I don't post full res so for me it's a comfortable middle ground approach. Other people approach it differently with watermarks, all rights reserved, no downloads. Other people post full res and allow downloads.

      From a legal standpoint, unless the owner says "free to all" in some form or fashion it's always a copyright violation when someone make an unauthorized copy of an image... it's just extra bad (although not in a legal sense) when they reuse it without permission.

      From a practical standpoint, you'll probably get away with it unless you use it in a commercial manner which makes this more of an ethical question... and I know people who come out on both sides of that coin so I'm sure it could be debated ad nauseam

  19. J-Wick
    Thumb Up

    Can I be the first to say...


    That picture is classy and sexy. Well done her!

    /off to my room

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So let me get this straight

    A cash-strapped college student gets ripped off, her image used illegally in a SOLD DVD and she gets $4k. But copy a song from a multimillionaire singer and you get fines going all the way into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Yeah the symmetry is amazing.

  21. Reg Sim

    All I have to say is...

    WTF were they not screwed by local law enforcement or regulation for having a 14 year old on the cover? - but then I suppose they may not of known her original age.

    Anybody seen the DVD? any good?

  22. J. Cook Silver badge


    ... and people wonder why I don't post pictures up to flickr, but instead host them myself.

    I tend to be a decent person, at least: people found hotlinking to my hosted images (that I've not given explicit permission) get a warning, then the image file on ym server gets changed to... something _else_.

    as far as outright lifting my pics and reporting them, well, that's what watermarking both the image and the EXIF is for.

    Hope the laywer doesn't take the entire settlement; I can understand how upset and angry finding a picture of myself on the cover of a porn DVD might make me.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Sorry to be trivial, J. Cook

      "I can understand how upset and angry finding a picture of myself on the cover of a porn DVD might make me." You are obviously significantly better looking than me - if I found a picture of me on the cover of a porn DVD, I'd probably have a heart-attack - from laughing!

  23. John Savard

    Have You Heard the One About

    Amy Grant versus Marvel Comics? But there, presumably, it was one of their artists getting lazy and making use of one of Amy Grant's album covers. This sort of thing has happened before, and I suppose it will happen again.

  24. Franklin

    A title is required

    Surely someone who makes a living publishing porn DVDs has a lawyer on retainer? And surely that lawyer has at least a passing acquaintance with copyright law, or at the very least can refer her client to someone who does?

    I mean, I understand that most folks can't be arsed to learn about copyright. Hell, I get content lifted from my Web site all the time--so often, in fact, that I keeo a DMCA takedown request form handy, and I know the DMCA email address of most of the major ISPs by heart...and that in spite of the fact that each page on my site has a prominent copyright notice that says, in effect, "you are free to use this material if you want to, provided you give credit and a return link." When people steal something that's offered for free, that shows a mind-boggling level of contempt for copyright.

    But to show that same sort of contempt for copyright when you're running a busines...well, that's a whole new level of dumb.

    Granted this "porn baron" likely won't ever pay a dime, but even so. I can't quite wrap my head around the notion that someone would risk his livelihood by doing something so profoundly stupid, especially when that business is industry where you'd think people would have more than a passing interest in copyright.

  25. CheesyTheClown

    As a former Florida resident

    I am glad that I live in Norway now :)

    Seriously, the lawyer took the case on contingency? He not only, took 30% or better of the gross (pre-tax reward) but he probably also billed for filing and court expenses and such. As a bonus, now he has a name that will show up and he's practically defined himself as the guy to call when someone stole your photo off of your blog.

    The girl, by the time all was said and done would have made more money working at McDonalds flipping burgers. Additionally, here's the laugh of it... if the company doesn't pay the fine, she'll receive a bill for the money owed to the lawyer since he worked based on a contingency of the reward, not based on whether the reward is paid. Legally, she owes him the money for services rendered whether she collects or not. As said in the article, Texas is a dead-beat paradise. He'll just file bankruptcy and start up again under a different name. Cost him nothing in the end.

    I DESPISE AMERICAN AMBULANCE CHASERS. This guy, not only did he chase an ambulance, but he chased it right across the ocean. I mean, seriously, that's almost the cheekiest thing I've ever heard. Here in Norway, there's a law that makes it illegal to do the "If you don't win, we don't win" type of law practice so popular in America.

    Go to Florida, visit Disney, have a blast, but watch daytime TV at some point. Every 3 minutes there's a commercial for these ambulance chasers. "Were you hurt at work? Did you trip on someone's grass? Did anyone ever say something that hurt your feelings? You may be owed money! Just call.....". When is someone going to stop these guys?

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge


      ... it's now common in the UK, too.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    America ?

    A good reason for the Atlantic Ocean.

    Jammie Thomas get $1.92M (initially) for sharing a couple of songs and this porno bum only gets $4,173.20 for commercial infringement.

  27. Octoberon

    CEO, Robert Burge


    I know he's in the porn industry but even so, what a dick!

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