Whitney Moore represents Welsh Government in successful sovereign immunity challenge
The Dublin District Court has recently thrown out a claim for breach of copyright against the Welsh Government over its use of photographs of Dylan Thomas. Photographs of the famous poet were used online by “Visit Wales”, the Welsh government’s tourism arm, to promote the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. The photographs in issue feature Dylan Thomas with his wife Caitlin and were taken by their friend and fellow poet Vernon Watkins.
In the recent hearing, Robin Hayes on behalf of the Welsh Government, argued that his client had immunity from suit as its actions had been done within the sphere of governmental or sovereign activity as opposed to commercial activity. The plaintiff, Pablo Star, argued that the immunity defence could not apply as the use of the photographs was part of a £4m marketing campaign and therefore the activity in question was commercial in nature.
In dismissing the case against the Welsh Government, Judge Coghlan held that the “Visit Wales” website is a publicity organ for the Welsh Government and that the government had been exercising state authority when using the photographs. Accordingly, it held that the immunity defence had been established.
On the same day Hayes also secured court orders dismissing separate cases taken against four international media publishers who had been sued in the Dublin District Court over their online use of the same Dylan Thomas photographs. The court agreed with the publisher defendants that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the cases.