Website hosting racy photos broke copyright law
By Khushwant Singh
THE company that hosts the risque but popular "sggirls" website has been found liable for copyright infringement after it was successfully sued by a modelling agency.
In a summary judgment issued on Sept 1, Assistant Registrar Ernest Lau ordered Jeyel Technologies to pay damages and costs to Perspectives Models after pictures of two of its models were posted on the website.
Perspectives' lawyer Roger Ngaw said the ruling was a landmark decision that had far-reaching implications for other websites that allow users to post content such as pictures, ringtones and text.
'No longer can a host claim that he has no control over what is posted on the website and is therefore not liable for copyright infringement or libel because these were committed by third parties.
'Hosts have to either continuously check what is on their websites or face repercussions. This judgment makes that very clear.'
Mr Ngaw, 39, said that discussions are underway to decide the amount of damages and costs Jeyel has to pay.
The copyright infringement surfaced in April when a friend of Nicolle, one of two models involved, saw her picture on the site.
The picture was an exact replica of one that appeared on the Perspectives' website, including the copyright warning. There was also a picture of Nicolle's colleague Dawn.
They immediately complained to Mr Hsu Kirk Wei, the boss of Perspectives.
Mr Hsu told The Straits Times yesterday: 'The models did not want to be associated with Sggirls as the pictures there can get rather racy.'
Sggirls removed the two postings two days after receiving his lawyer's letter, but Mr Hsu was not content.
'This has happened before and Sggirls waited for our complaints before removing the incriminating material. They then claimed innocence by pointing the finger at third parties. What they did was wrong, so I decided to take them to court.'
Mr Cyril Chan, 34, a lawyer specialising in intellectual property (IP), said: 'A host is ultimately responsible and must ensure that content does not infringe copyright or is libellous or obscene, even if it's posted by other people.'
Mr Alban Kang, a senior IP law specialist, agreed. 'A newspaper that prints a libellous report and then insists that it was merely reporting what a certain person had said has no defence under the law.
'That's the way it should be for website hosts.'
When contacted through her lawyer, Jeyel's sole proprietor Kuar Soh Cheng declined to comment.