Copyright Shock: Troubling new developments

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Richard Lewisohn / Image Source RF

Richard Lewisohn / Image Source RF

New legislation was passed in the United Kingdom Parliament last night that allows the use of photographs (or other works) to be used without the owners’ explicit permission, providing a “dilligent” search has taken place.

The legislation refers specifically to ‘orphaned works,’ images or other creative content that has been published on the internet but has no discernible source. Opponents of the new legislation argue that the ERR Act will further encourage the exploitation of imagery posted online. The UK Government has responded by saying the act makes ‘copyright licensing more efficient.’

Leading the protest against the ERR Act is campaign group Stop43. Formed in 2010, it is composed by several leading industry figures and bodies including The Association of Photographers, The British Institute of Professional Photography, The British Press Photographers’ Association, Copyright Action, EPUK and The National Union of Journalists. A statement released by the organisation described the act as ‘premature, ill thought-out and constitutionally improper.’

We’ve gathered together some immediate response:

In a post on the Stop43 website, British photographer David Bailey reiterated their concerns saying:

“Why the rush?

“A scheme, the Copyright Hub – a scheme backed by the government – is being developed to ensure that those who wish to find our pictures can not only do so quickly online, but also find the contact details of the pictures’ owners.

“You are about to put the cart before the horse.”

Writing in The Register, journalist Andrew Orlowski noted:

“Most digital images on the internet today are orphans – the metadata is missing or has been stripped by a large organisation – millions of photographs and illustrations are swept into such schemes.

For the first time anywhere in the world, the Act will permit the widespread commercial exploitation of unidentified work – the user only needs to perform a ‘diligent search’. But since this is likely to come up with a blank, they can proceed with impunity. The Act states that a user of a work can act as if they are the owner of the work (which should be you) if they’re given permission to do so by the Secretary of State.

The Act also fails to prohibit sub-licensing, meaning that once somebody has your work, they can wholesale it. This gives the green light to a new content-scraping industry, an industry that doesn’t have to pay the originator a penny. Such is the consequence of ‘rebalancing copyright’, in reality.”

A word from IMSO:

As producers and licensers of copyrighted content, we at Image Source are deeply disturbed by these developments. We will be following with more soon.

In the meantime, we urge any residents of the United Kingdom to sign Stop43’s petition. You can find it here.

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