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Savills pays copyright bill for PR image after Press Gazette coverage

Hyperlocal news website was facing £460 bill from rights holder of PR image.

By Bron Maher

Update: 28/6/2024:

Update, Thursday 27 June: Property company Savills has paid a copyright bill issued by Alamy to hyperlocal news site Marlborough News after providing it with a PR image they did not own the rights for.

Neil Goodwin told Press Gazette that Savills “realised that an error had been made which they sought to resolve immediately it was brought to their attention by Press Gazette”.

The property services group had originally ignored Goodwin’s request to cover the cost of the copyright claim and did not initially respond to a request for comment. But it took action after Press Gazette published story and highlighted the issue on social media. The fee of £250 for use of the image, reduced from £460, was paid yesterday.

Original story: 26/6/2024

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An independent hyperlocal news site has been hit with a demand for nearly £500 over the 2016 publication of a photo that property company Savills had provided “rights-free”.

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Marlborough News is cooperatively run and says it donates the profits from its modest advertising revenue to local organisations and activities.

Co-founder Neil Goodwin told Press Gazette that Savills, which has a market capitalisation of £1.6bn, does not accept responsibility for the copyright violation and will not pay the £460 sum. Whereas Goodwin works on a largely voluntary basis, Savills CEO Mark Ridley was paid nearly £2m in 2023.

‘It’s a lot, especially for a third party’s puff’

Goodwin, who runs the site in “semi-retirement” but previously worked in publishing roles at the Hampstead and Highgate Express and Archant, said it is the first time his title has been hit with a copyright claim since it was founded in 2011.

The bill relates to a brief story published in July 2016 covering the sale of a pub, The Barge Inn, outside Pewsey in Wiltshire. Goodwin told Press Gazette that the image used to illustrate the story was provided in a press release sent by Savills, who gave an “assurance that it was ‘rights free’” at the time.

Despite this Marlborough News has since been contacted by copyright enforcement firm Visual Rights Group demanding payment of £440 for the image on behalf of the rights holder, photo library Alamy. The sum was increased last week to £460.

Goodwin said the sum is “a lot, especially when it was for something almost irrelevant to us and a third party’s puff.

“That would help several youth groups in this area, for example, and their needs are far greater and more acute than those of VRG or Alamy.”

Goodwin said the image was used by Savills itself in its listing for the property and that it was used by other local titles. The publisher added that the man attempting to sell the pub had told Savills that he had the rights to the photo, “but he didn’t. Therefore not their responsibility – tough.

“They are right — technically — but morally, not so sure…

“Any property agent supplying copy, especially images that still have copyright restrictions, are in danger of losing their access to their marketplace.

“Agents rely on us to promote editorially what they send. We (as media) will tell them to ‘go away’ (or possibly slightly stronger language) if there is any possible risk of breach of copyright.  

“Other media need be aware of this as in our case, Savills assurances were worthless and costly.”

Goodwin said Marlborough News was not “exactly flush with funds, we are volunteers, we don’t take any payment/salary, other than basic business related expenses, which generally fall short of what we actually spend…

“I left it with [VRG] to come back to me with a rethought offer as I had a decision to make: possibly let them take the business into liquidation (unable to cover the amount demanded) or pay out of my own pocket, which would save the site, the business, and be of real benefit to the community here.”

Savills declined to comment.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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