Tories at centre of copyright row

LITERATURE produced by the local Conservative Party used two photographs with no apparent regard for the law of copyright, the St Albans Observer has learned.

The party's newsletter In Touch used two pictures of St Albans, taken without permission from the website Pictures of England, for its election issue in April.

The pictures were clearly marked as copyright reserved to Anna Chaleva, a Bulgarian amateur photographer who frequently visits England.

After she pointed out that her rights had been ignored, the local business which the party used to produce the newsletter would not accept the law had been broken and offered a mere £4 in compensation.

Ms Chaleva, a lawyer who lives in Sofia, said: "I feel a bitter disappointment in what I had believed strongly in - British correctness, British morals and British good faith. I have been deprived of my proprietor's right of discretion to grant or to refuse use to third parties.

"This is a free autonomous decision, which should be recognised and complied with by everybody."

The local party referred her complaint to Peter Johnston of Marketing Future, a business in St Albans Road, Sandridge, which produces artwork for the 40,000 copies of In Touch distributed every month.

Mr Johnston claimed the website operator was responsible as it had not responded to his request for permission, but Ms Chaleva says she could have been easily contacted direct by email through the site.

When she suggested a suitable payment would be £300 per photo, Mr Johnston offered £2 each and later emailed that he looked forward to disputing the matter in court.

He has not responded to the St Albans Observer's invitation to comment.

Conservative party agent David Walker said: "I have acted honourably and innocently. Mr Johnston tells me I have no liability and until somebody tells me otherwise, I am not prepared to spend time and money pursuing it."

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