The first is part of the Digital Economy Bill and relates to orphan works usage rights, which will allow the commercial use of any photograph whose author cannot be identified. Assuming most people are not going to try and find the owner for images they download online, that’s potentially about 90% of the photos on the internet.
As the Copyright Action site indicates:
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.
One of the more galling aspects of the UK Digital Economy bill is that it has been specifically drafted (at the behest of the music and movie industry) to further protect music and movie copyrights but then seems to strip any need to worry about copyright for Photographers. What is worse is that despite the Lords Select Committee stating that the definition of an “orphan work” should be included in the bill, Lord Mandelson (who is the one pushing this through) refused on the grounds that:
“the need for flexibility in specifying what comprises an adequate search makes this difficult. That what is an orphan work will change according to evolving methods of determining its status.”
If this is passed it means that any image that turns up on a Google image search or personal website could be used commercially with the user just claiming they tried to find the owner and hoping they aren’t caught out. Time to dust off the watermarks I think, however this is a shame as ultimately watermarks go against the idea of showcasing your work on personal sites or places such as Flickr!
The other half of this story is that the Information Commissioners Office is proposing a new code for personal information online. It should be noted that the proposal is still in consultation, but should it be passed, as well as the obvious personal data items it also includes new rules that will all but prohibit photography in public places where anyone who’s in the photograph might be unhappy about being photographed. However in order to avoid impacting tourist photos, this new ruling will only apply to pro photographers. Without even getting into definitions around who is pro and who isn’t this still poses massive problems.
Imagine a demonstration through a city. There are bound to be pro documentary/news photographers there shooting the crowd. However unless the photographer walks around and collects consent from every single individual in the crowd they will now not be allowed to take a photo of the event!
Again, as the Copyright Action site puts it:
Minor considerations like journalism, history, social documentary, freedom of expression – and even the simple logic that if you can eyeball it in public, it can’t possibly be private – all are just collateral damage. At a stroke, ICO is redefining allowable photography to exclude all that contentious street stuff that has made the record of the last 150 years so insightful.
Visit the link to the Copyright Action site below for a far more extensive post, along with links tot he relevant bills. If you’re in the UK then I also urge you to write to your local elected representative about the Digital Economy Bill and the orphan licensing rights expressed within it.