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7/22/2009
UK Council Considers Speed Camera Photos Copyrighted
East Sussex, UK County Council insists that speed camera photographs are copyrighted material that may not be published.

Barker speed camera photo, 6/15/08
The East Sussex, UK Police are attempting to have speed camera photographs removed from websites by claiming they represent copyrighted material. In particular, the police are targeting a set of images taken in June 2008 that motorcyclist Peter Barker used to prove that a radar device that clocked him at 38 MPH must have been wrong. Based on measurements of the photographic evidence, a Brighton Magistrates Court judge agreed and threw out the case against Barker.

East Sussex Police are seek to ban publication of the following photographs: photo one and photo two.

"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.

According to UK Intellectual Property Office, copyright applies to photographs as "original artistic works" that are the product of independent creative effort. Works are considered original if sufficient skill and labor were expended in their creation.

"I see little skill or labor used by the police authority in making the photographs as this is an automated machine," Barker said. "In fact the only originality was supplied by myself as it was I that arranged for myself to be driving on that piece of road at that time. So if anyone could claim copyright in this 'artistic work' then it is myself and I duly exert my rights in this product to the extent they exist."

Barker also 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.

While officials may prefer that drivers simply pay the tickets when they arrive in the mail, tens of thousands of innocent motorists have seen good reason to challenge their citations. In May, the National Prosecutors Office in The Netherlands refunded 9298 photo citations and another 2640 in February because of uncertain camera accuracy. In March, 3000 automated tickets in Lausanne, Switzerland were thrown out after a "technical problem" caused tickets to be issued to law-abiding motorists. In February, prosecutors in Nuremberg, Germany began investigating a police chief for tampering with a photo radar evidence log. A major investigation in the UK last year concluded that 2660 speed camera tickets were unlawfully issued in Lancashire. In Arizona, 589 bogus speed camera tickets were canceled after faulty speed sensors were discovered.

Source: Copyright Letter to Peter Barker (East Sussex, UK County Council, 6/28/2009)

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