Madiba’s Image in a R2.1 billion Copyright Claim

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Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a rally to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s centenary year in Cape Town, South Africa.
Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a rally to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s centenary year in Cape Town, South Africa. Reuters/Mike Hutchings

What is deemed to be the largest copyright infringement claim involving a South African artwork – R2.1 billion for a photograph of former president Nelson Mandela – is again before the high court in Pretoria, according to City Press.

The report states that the claim is by photographer Shaun Harris regarding the use of a photo he took of Nelson Mandela in January 1999.

Harris’ claims that his image of the statesman was used criminally and without the correct copyright clearance from his then agents PictureNet – by the Government Communication Information System (GCIS).

In 2014, Harris made news when he sued GCIS for R20 million for the use the picture.

According to the court papers, GCIS licensed Harris’ photo for use twice. The first time was in 2006 for a single use in a book on Mandela, City Press reported.

The forensic report states the photo was apparently not removed from the GCIS system. Using the back end metadata on Adobe Photoshop, the report tracks how, from February 12 2010 at 5.32pm, the photo was scanned by GCIS who allegedly removed the photographer’s name, the agent’s name and the caption provided from the description field in the metadata.

The photo was taken when Mandela met then UK prime minister Tony Blair in January 1999.

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