JOHANNESBURG – A photographer is heading to court, claiming R20-million from government for the unauthorised use of a decades-old photograph he took of late former president Nelson Mandela.
Photographer Shaun Earl Harris accuses the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) of copyright infringement saying he has “once again come out to the public after having tried unsuccessfully to engage with the South African government” on the matter.
Harris said in 2006 GCIS purchased a license to use the copyright protected photograph of Mandela in a book.
“This license was, however, limited to the one time use of the image in a book published and distributed in South Africa,” explained the aggrieved photographer
In 2013, the Mandela family approached GCIS and asked to see all the images they had available of Mandela “as they were preparing for the worst since his health had already been deteriorating”. Mandela passed away on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95.
Harris said his photograph was chosen by the Mandela family as the official image.
The lensman has gathered hundreds of examples of the Mandela image being used locally and internationally without the necessary authorisation.
He said he was claiming R20-million as compensation for damages and loss of recognition, including royalties as a result of the widespread unauthorised use of the Mandela image. “I am seeking relief via a civil claim in the High Court of South Africa,” said Harris.
In the past, GCIS acknowledged the claims made by Harris. Three years ago GCIS claimed it was engaging with the photographer to find a resolution.