Friday, August 18, 2006

Someone Used My Intellectual Property

A reader recently sent me this question.

I have a picture on my blog. Someone has used this picture without my permission. What can I do?


It is important to emphasise that such use really depends on the facts of the situation.

You, the owner of the work, should consider seeking independent legal advice. Your lawyer would be able to review the facts of the matter and provide a more comprehensive legal opinion.

However, legal costs of pursuing an intellectual property infringement can run into the thousands. And if you wish to pursue this, you should really be prepared to spend.

Of course, if you are successful, some of these costs can be recovered. Your lawyer will be able to advise you about the chances of recovering what you spent.

Some law firms in Singapore whose intellectual property expertise I am familiar with include:
Ravindran Associates
Alban Tay Mahtani & De Silva
Lee & Lee

The Law Society of Singapore may know of others.


Generally, under the Copyright Act in Singapore, pictures are considered artistic work. If one is not the owner of an artistic work and one uses the work without permission from the owner, one may have infringed the copyright in the work.

However, it is possible for one to defend the use of the work and argue that the person had not infringed the work. For example, the person could argue, among other things that, the work was used for criticism or review.

Then, the person is under a duty to sufficiently acknowledge the work. This usually means a simple inclusion about the details of the source of the work. I know many media - both mainstream and alternative - use this as a defence of the use of work belonging to other persons.

Such a matter can get complicated if the person who used your work is not in Singapore.


You may wish to consider writing to the person who has used the picture stating why you feel your copyright has been infringed. And if you feel it has been infringed, request for corrective measures. Such measures can include an apology for using the work or a sufficient acknowledgment of the work, if this was not done.

I tend to do this. In most cases, I have found the person will write back either justifying the use or accepting my request for corrective measures to be taken. If the person justifies the use and I feel the justification is satisfactory, I will not pursue the matter further.

You may also wish to take some measures to prevent people from reproducing or using the work found on your website. In any case, I wouldn't post things on my website, which I do not wish to share with others.


When making my work public, I reasonably expect my work to be shared without my knowledge. I am prepared to accept such "unauthorised" use if the knowledge of the work is useful to the person using it.

I now find increasingly that people are less willing to share their intellectual property with others. I find this trend somewhat worrying.

My learning process would have ended long ago if many others I know did not share or had not shared their work willingly with me.

Be gracious with your knowledge. Do willingly share your intellectual property, as far as reasonably possible.

Dharmendra Yadav


ketsugi said...

Your last section on sharing made me think of Creative Commons licenses. Perhaps you could do a post about Creative Commons and how useful and applicable these licenses (and other copyleft licenses like the GPL) are in Singapore?

Thanks for the free legal advice. It's always a bit difficult to tell what applies to us in Singapore since just about everything we read about internet-related law is so America-centric.

. said...

Thanks for the reply on my query. The issue didn't go far but at least we managed an apology online from the editor of the section of the newspaper.