This is a hugely controversial Bill which became an act of law last week. BJP report, ‘The bill was originally written to eradicate unnecessary bureaucracy but presented a series of provisions, introduced through the back door by the Intellectual Property Office, to allow the use of orphan works, such as images that lack metadata and whose copyright owners cannot be found’.
Now, the Bill has not been completely finalised yet, although it has received Royal Assent, the proposed copyright changes have not been approved by the UK government. But, if it is finalised it will effectively mean that the government can introduce controversial regulations.
As BJP explain, ‘If introduced and approved, these regulations would have seismic repercussions for photographers both in the UK and the rest of the world. “The invention of photography and its mass adoption by the population created a new kind of potential value, but being analogue it was too expensive for corporations to exploit en masse the many millions of photographs they made,” comments Paul Ellis of the Stop43 campaign group. “Digital changed all that. Intellectual Property is the oil of the 20th century, and the almost cost-free duplication and dissemination of digital files has resulted in a huge stream of images. The trouble is, it was illegal to exploit them without the owners’ permission. That’s no longer the case.”
While publishers seeking to use an orphan work will have to demonstrate they have done a reasonable search for the image’s owner, a large number of online services, such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, strip the metadata from uploaded images, creating millions of new orphan works each day.
“What does this mean for the general public? They’re stuffed,” Ellis told BJP in an email conversation. “In the way of things, their huge mass of unremarkable images throw up lottery winners that make it onto the front pages of newspapers and news websites, and generate huge value for media organisations. The difference is that lottery winners usually get the winnings. Now owners of lottery-winning images usually won’t.”
Professional photographers, however, could benefit from the Copyright Hub’s upcoming launch. “The Hub promises free or low-cost registration of works to stop them being declared orphan, but registry facilities barely exist yet, and even when they do, for producers of large numbers of relatively low-value works such as photographs, the time and costs of registration are likely to remain significant for some time to come,” said Ellis.
Alternatively, another one we would recommend is iWatermark, it also retails for $1.99/£1.49 and you can download it here.
We’ll keep you informed of updates to this situation as it happens, keep checking back for that…