This is evident from a decision made public yesterday by the Court of Appeal in The Hague.
The man and his father have been performing as Piet and Sinterklaas for years in the run-up to December 5. For an expense allowance they visit about 10 to 15 families, companies and schools every year.
The men advertised for this on Facebook and Marktplaats, where they used photos of themselves during the Sinterklaas entry in the municipality of Zuidland in 2018, made by a professional photographer, without permission.
When the copyright-holder photographer found out, he held the men liable in November 2018 for the damage, which he estimated at 4,000 euros.
The assistant Sinterklaas’s son immediately took the photos off the websites, but refused to pay the bill. According to the man, these were everyday snapshots that were not covered by copyright.
If there was any copyright on the photos, he believed that it belonged to a local newspaper.
To the judge
The photographer was not put off, and went to court. At first he got stuck there. The Rotterdam subdistrict court ruled in April 2020 that the assistant saint and Piet did not have to pay, because any unlawful acts could not be attributed to them.
To make matters worse, the photographer had to pay for their legal costs, which were estimated at more than 8,000 euros.
Sint loses appeal
But on appeal, the photographer turns out to be right. A ruling made public yesterday shows that the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled in October that the photos fall under the copyright of the photographer, and that Sint and Piet have infringed this.
The court has ruled that the men must pay 900 euros for the use of the photos. That amount is considerably lower than the required 4,000 euros, because the court finds the rates used to be too high. The Court of Appeal assumes lower rates, partly because the activities were not for profit.
In addition, the two must pay 225 euros as compensation for not mentioning the copyright in the images.
Higher legal costs
This brings the total bill for the use of the photos to 1125 euros. But because the earlier ruling of the subdistrict court has been canceled, the users of the photos now have to pay for their own legal costs. They were more than 8,000 euros in the first lawsuit alone.
The court also ordered Sint and Piet to pay the photographer’s legal costs, which are estimated at almost 9,000 euros.
The Court finds no reason to lower this fee because these costs are much higher than the costs for photo use.
The judges also point out that the assistant saint and Piet are partly to blame for the high legal costs. According to the Court of Appeal, their ‘many unnecessary and hopeless defences’ have ‘made the case unnecessarily complicated and thereby significantly increased lawyer’s costs’.