Last night the government was forced to drop clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill. This badly-thought-out legislation would have given publishers the freedom to use ‘orphan works’. In other words, any photograph belonging to a photographer who the publisher claimed could not be traced.
An arbitrary fee would have been paid to a UK Government-appointed ‘licensing body’ with the photographer none the wiser unless he/she spotted the image being used and claimed the money. No one knew how this fee would be calculated.
Clearly this would have been open to enormous abuse. In reality publishers would have done no research to discover the identity of the photographer.
Like many professional photographers, over the years, thousands of my images have been published in magazines for payment but without a printed credit. All of those images would have been up for grabs by unscrupulous publishers.
In the end the Conservatives said they couldn’t back this part of the Bill and it was dropped.
‘The UK Government wanted to introduce a law to allow anyone to use your photographs commercially, or in ways you might not like, without asking you first. THEY HAVE FAILED,’ said the site that was set up to oppose the proposals.
And in an embarassing development over the past week, of the kind you couldn’t make up considering they were debating issues relating to photo copyright in the House of Commons, it turns out that Labour has infringed BBC copyright by Photoshopping David Cameron’s head on to a photo of a character from the TV series Ashes To Ashes. Then the Conservatives committed the same offence by making their own version.