CROYDON IN CRISIS: The discredited council under Newman and Negrini won their bid for ‘Borough of Culture’ status by using material that senior staff knew to be stolen intellectual property.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Katherine Kerswell, the chief exec of Croydon Council, or members of her staff, could face prison terms or hefty fines for contempt after ignoring a High Court injunction and continuing to use the work of a local film producer without permission.
Last year the council was fined £10,000 for its unauthorised use of someone else’s copyrighted material. The videos had been used as part of the bid to be chosen as London’s Borough of Culture.
Yet despite the High Court ruling, the cash-strapped council has continued its unlicensed use of the video material for the last 16 months, breaking the court injunction, and racking up six County Court Judgements for unpaid bills, with another 20 CCJs pending.
Inside Croydon understands that bailiffs have now been instructed to recover an additional £35,000 owed by Croydon Council to a local business.
Adam Chamberlain, the owner of AdavoMedia, had been seeking proper payment for use of his work for four years when he took his case to the High Court in early 2021.
Deputy District Judge Nicola Solomon heard Chamberlain’s complaint in the intellectual property enterprise court. Her judgement was handed down and published on April 30, 2021.
At the top of Judge Solomon’s court order is a notice to the defendant (that is, Croydon Council) marked “important” in bold capital letters.
The warning states “(1) This Order prohibits you from doing the acts set out in paragraph 1 of this order.
“(2) If you disobey that paragraph of this order you may be found guilty of Contempt of Court and any of your officers may be sent to prison or fined and you may be fined or your assets seized”.
Judge Solomon ordered Croydon Council to pay Chamberlain £10,000 in damages plus costs of £555.
The judge also issued an injunction which stated that, “The Defendant must not (whether acting by its directors, officers, employees, or agents or by any others acting on its behalf, on its instructions or with its encouragement or otherwise howsoever) do any of the following acts:
“(1) Reproduce in any material form the 26 individual video clips delineated in the Particulars of Claim filed or any films made by the Claimant for the Defendant whether in whole or in part (“the Claimant’s work”).
“(2) Make the Claimant’s work (or any substantial parts of them) available to the public or any other party whether as part of a film, on a website or otherwise.
“(3) authorise any other person to do any of the above acts or otherwise infringe the Claimant’s copyright in the Claimant’s literary or artistic works.”
Yet despite the seriousness of the court ruling, Chamberlain says that the council has continued to use his material without permission.
Last month he tweeted, “Croydon Council, when will you stop nicking my video material?
“Should I send in bailiffs or will you pay?
“Spielberg never has this trouble.”
Chamberlain says that he has written to Croydon Mayor Jason Perry to bring the continued offences to his attention. By the time of publication, Chamberlain had not received a substantive reply or resolution of the matter.
“Jason Perry talks about ‘supporting local business’, so I’m sure he’d want to pay all money owed to premier suppliers like AdavoMedia,” the increasingly frustrated businessman said.
Chamberlain has worked in TV, video production and the media industry for more than 20 years, creating material for broadcast, charity films, radio shows and corporate films.
He relocated to Croydon in 2014 with his firm, AdavoMedia, and quickly developed business relationships with various organisations and companies, and with the council. AdavoMedia first started working on projects for Croydon Council in 2015, and was quickly invited to become part of its “premier supplier” programme.
Between 2015 and 2018, Chamberlain reckons that he worked on around 15 video projects with different departments and members of staff at the council.
“In 2017 I was contacted by Croydon Council and asked to provide my video production services to help create two films promoting the benefits of living in Croydon and working for Croydon Council – part of a recruitment promotional film and an induction film for new members of staff.
“The brief included the use of video material to be taken from other Croydon film projects.
“When querying whether Croydon had permission to use this other material, I was told ‘we own the footage’, so it’s cleared to use.”
Of course, that was far from the case.
Among Chamberlain’s work that has continued to be used by the council without permission or payment is a shot of No1 Croydon taken at sunrise using time-lapse techniques.
Chamberlain satisfied the High Court judge that the film had been used across multiple council websites, including on the Croydon2019 site, which was created to showcase Croydon when Tony Newman, the now discredited ex-leader of the council, and Jo “Negreedy” Negrini, the CEO who bankrupted the borough, first tried to win Borough of Culture status four years ago.
Today, Chamberlain told Inside Croydon: “I asked where the material came from. I flagged the possibility that Croydon Council could be sued for copyright and intellectual property infringement if they had not sought permission to use this material.
“The material they asked me to copy and download from other films was in fact, my own footage which had been copied and downloaded somehow without my knowledge or consent, re-edited and published in a variety of Croydon Council promos.
“No one was able or willing to confirm if they had permission to use, edit and publish any of the material in the film and nobody seemed to have any knowledge where the footage had been sourced.
“If I had no idea my footage had been downloaded, copied, re-edited and re-published, the chances are no one else had been contacted to seek permission to use their material either.
“Very troubling, and extremely unethical.”
There followed a year or so of negotiations while Croydon Council continued to use Chamberlain’s material despite what he describes as “my clear instructions that they did not have permission”.
Chamberlain’s main point of contact at the council had been Paula Murray, appointed by Negrini on a six-figure salary as the council’s first ever “creative director”. Murray took the plaudits in late 2019 when it was announced that Croydon was to be London’s Borough of Culture in 2023.
Murray’s culture bid gave a good deal of prominence to an Andy Warhol exhibition staged in the town centre by the Rise Gallery, a private business which received generous grants from the council but was subsequently placed in administration for failure to pay its bills. Artist Banksy was even forced to sanction warnings to other art dealers to avoid trading with the Rise Gallery.
Murray’s departure from her well-paid job in Fisher’s Folly was announced in November 2020, in the immediate aftermath of the council’s financial collapse. But what Chamberlain calls the “unethical” practices at the council on Murray’s watch have continued ever since.
Today, Chamberlain told Inside Croydon, “I first notified Paula in 2017 of my discovery that material had been used without my knowledge or consent. Despite attempting to reach an agreement and a suitable payment for its use, Croydon Council failed to make any payment to me and continued to publish and exploit my intellectual property.”
The High Court last year awarded the maximum damages possible, when Chamberlain proved that the council had used 26 clips that were re-edited and published in 11 different films, across multiple websites and social media platforms – totalling nearly 266 uses. Chamberlain nor AdavoMedia were never credited nor paid for any of the uses.
“I’ve never experienced such blatant intellectual property theft on such a large scale before,” Chamberlain said. “Certainly not from a public authority.”
Read more: How Negrini and Newman broke the law in campaign to shut down Inside Croydon
Read more: TV expert slams ‘tricky art dealer’ and ‘gullible’ council leader
Read more: Banksy warns: do not trade with this Croydon art dealer
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at email@example.com
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- By having a comment section, we provide all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content. Details of how this works can be read by clicking here
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period