Sunday 28 February 2010
More info about the photography issues for this law on http://www.stop43.org.uk
UK Gov nationalises orphans and bans non-consensual photography in public
The Digital Economy Bill is now expected to become law within the next 6 weeks. It introduces orphan works usage rights, which - unless amended, which HMG says it will not - will allow the commercial use of any photograph whose author cannot be identified through a suitably negligent search. That is potentially about 90% of the photos on the internet.
Copyright in photos is essentially going to cease to exist, since there is no ineradicable way of associating ownership details short of plastering your name right across the image. Photographer's organisations have pressed hard for mandatory attribution to deter orphans being manufactured. Early in the consultation process the IPO accepted the irresistible logic that it was completely unreasonable to permit orphan use without a balancing requirement to not orphan photos in the first place. However, the IPO recognised with dismay that this would mean "taking on Rupert" (Murdoch).
Publishers have a long history of opposing our moral rights. They were responsible for the feeble and unenforceable moral rights clauses in the 1988 Act. They want their branding, not ours, and they want maximum freedom to exploit our IP at minimum cost and inconvenience.
The IPO avoided confrontation with Murdoch, who does have something of a rep for being a vital friend in an election year. The Bill contains no deterrent to the creation of orphans, no penalties for anonymising your work, no requirement for bylines. It is a luncheon voucher for industry hungry for free and cheap content.
So Flickr, Google Images, personal websites, all of it will become commercial publishers' photolibrary. A fee will have to be deposited with a collecting society in case the owner spots the usage. The author who discovers his work has been used as an orphan can then make a claim and receive a percentage of the peanuts, after the collecting society has had its share, and the government its share.
If this law is passed, anyone who takes a photo can have it "stolen" by the media and not get paid or have any attribution to their work unless we put a huge "photo by xxx" across the middle of all images used online.
There is a sample letter on http://copyrightaction.com/digital-economy-bill-mp-letter-template which you can send to your MP to urge them not to vote for this bill.