Royal Opera House backs down in legal row with blogger

Natalie Woolman

The Royal Opera House has been forced to apologise to a theatre blogger after its head of legal and business affairs threatened to sue her for breach of copyright and ban her from attending Covent Garden.

An internal investigation has been set up by the venue after a series of emails were sent by the ROH head of legal and business affairs George Avory insisting that all ROH images had to be removed from the Intermezzo blog by 6pm last Friday or “we will pursue this matter further which will include litigation and future exclusion from future Royal Opera House membership and performances”.

Intermezzo had offered to credit the ROH for use of the photos and put a statement on the home page of her website explaining that ROH holds the copyright to the images annotated as originating from the venue. She said: “It is not my intention to claim copyright where I am not entitled to do so”.

In a post, Intermezzo added: “I have made not a penny from ‘images referenced to performances at the Royal Opera House’. The ROH have not, I suspect, incurred any losses as a result of my use. In fact, I believe that this blog has actually enhanced ROH finances by encouraging people to buy tickets, and particularly by familiarising new visitors with what goes on there and what performances are really like.”

Following a backlash from internet commentators and other bloggers, who accused the organisation of heavy-handed tactics, ROH retracted its threats of legal action and issued a statement saying that it had apologised to the blogger for how it had handled the issue.

It added that it “is happy to provide approved imagery to the media including blogs” and that it “very much values the support and contribution of social media.”

A blog post from Intermezzo explained that ROH has requested that only images in which the copyright holders may be a third party need to be taken down, and that it has given Intermezzo access to all its press images.

A spokesman for ROH said that it had opened an internal investigation into the matter and was considering creating an official policy for the use of its images.

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