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Dylan Thomas Copyright Case Dismissed by Irish Court

Written by Fozia Cheychi on 25 January 2016

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The dispute concerns photographs taken in the 1930’s of poet Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin these were used in a campaign by the Welsh tourist board and show the couple playing croquet and strolling through the countryside as newlyweds. The photograph’s are entitled ‘Pennard’ and ‘Just Married’ and were used by Visit Wales to help promote the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The photographs in question were taken by friend and fellow poet Vernon Watkins, who passed away in 1967.

In 2011 Pablo Star Media Ltd purchased the copyright from Mr Watkins’ widow Gwen for the sum of £1,000, the company has taken legal action claiming copyright breaches against a number of companies both in the UK and abroad.

Six of these claims were listed before the district court in Dublin. Four of these involved US and New Zealand publications and were dismissed as the judge stated the court did not have jurisdiction to deal with the claims.

This case against the Welsh Government was also dismissed and the sixth case involving a Welsh Citizen is due to be heard by the court.

The damages case was heard in a Dublin court and the judge ruled that if the case is to proceed, it should be heard in a court in either Wales or England. Former BBC journalist Haydn Price- the owner of Pablo Star Media Ltd had argued that he had the right to sue in an Irish court on the basis that he now resides in Ireland.

The Welsh government argued that its actions are governmental activity and as such is activity that is protected under international law on this basis it claimed it has sovereign immunity.

A solicitor for Pablo Star argued that the activities relating to the disputed images were commercial and objected to the sovereign-immunity defence. It was further stated that the promotional material featuring on the Visit Wales website was part of a £4m commercial marketing campaign that included links to hotel and accommodation.

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