Johannesburg - Photographer Shaun Earl Harris is demanding R20 million in compensation from the government for the unauthorised use of the decade-old photograph he took of the late statesman, former SA president Nelson Mandela.
Harris, who said he was taking the legal route to deal with "copyright infringement", said at the weekend that he has "once again come out to the public after having tried unsuccessfully to engage with the South African government" on the matter.
Explaining the cause of his grievance, Harris said in 2006 the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) purchased a license to use the copyright protected photograph of Mandela in a book.
"This license was, however, limited to the one time use of the image in a book published and distributed in South Africa," explained the aggrieved photographer.
He said in 2013, the Mandela family approached GCIS and asked to see all the images they had available of Mandela "as they were preparing for the worst since his health had already been deteriorating". Mandela passed away on 5 December 2013 at the age of 95.
Harris said his photograph was chosen by the Mandela family as the official image.
The lensman, who said in a statement on Sunday that he was being represented by Andrew Boerner of Jurgens Bekker Attorneys, Bedfordview, has gathered hundreds of examples of the Mandela image being used locally and internationally without the necessary authorisation.
He said he was claiming R20 million as compensation for damages and loss of recognition, including royalties as a result of the widespread unauthorised use of the Mandela image. "I am seeking relief via a civil claim in the High Court of South Africa," said Harris.
This matter has been registered as Case Number: 94293/2016.
In the past, GCIS has acknowledged the claims made by Harris. Three years ago GCIS claimed it was engaging with the photographer to find a resolution.