Are you in a tizz over the ERR Bill?
Oh, the furore. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act has photographers up in arms after pundits released broad-brush statements to the effect that ‘The government have made a law that removes my copyright control from my photographs’.
UK photographers have responded angrily, saying (in a variety of ways) that the new Act means that anyone anywhere can strip the data from a photograph that they want to use, declare it an ‘orphaned work’ (one for which the originator cannot be found) and use it as they wish without any payment. So once again the government are vilified in the electronic press and on forums because someone took what someone else said as correct.
This vitriol is fairly typical of our reactionary times and, as is so often the case, based on opinions that are not quite correct because the ‘respected authors’ have reacted to the headline without examining the content.
ERR has to comply with the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, in which there are already certain provisions for the use of images and textual extracts without payment to the originator or author or, as appropriate, any estate. UK law already complies with the Berne Convention.
Amongst other things, the Act repeals S52 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, which limited a design’s copyright period to ‘the life of the originator plus 25 years’ – a measure taken despite international law maintaining the copyright for 70 years after the originator’s death. The UK will fall into line with the international community on design, as it already does with other creative works – such as photographs.
Ranting about ‘diligent search’ quality – in that people wanting to use an image will just say that they conducted a diligent search – is such a waste of time and effort. The search is to be conducted under an existing commercial process, approved by government, following application (and payment, of course) from an intending user. Part of the payment will, no doubt, cover the administrative cost of the search with the remainder going into a Royalties nest-egg in case the originator suddenly springs up to claim misuse. The original suggestion that the forthcoming 'Use Authorising' department should conduct searches has been blocked on two grounds.
1.HMG lacks the expertise necessary to do the job efficiently.
2.HMG does not wish to be seen as competing with existing commercial agencies.
Obviously this will all reduce the time and money spent on litigation for copyright breach which, while not mentioned in the committee’s impact assessment, has to be a consideration because of the corresponding reduction of the burden on the Court Service.
The main purpose of this part of the bill is to enable and encourage archives and museums to monetise orphaned works that gather dust in dark corners of storage areas.
I’ve yet to see anyone complaining about the part of the Act that removes the onus on retailers to inform TV Licensing of any sales or rentals of television sets (Wireless Telegraphy Act 1967 (as amended)) because it has become an onerous burden and in part, because of international sales, unenforceable.
Footnote: If you place your photograph on the web and someone wants to use it without paying you, they will no matter how well you protect it - by the simple method of 'Print Screen' which carries no data whatsoever. Stripping out doesn't occur, so you accuse the unscrupulous freeloaders of being sufficiently technically adept to be able to remove EXIF and other data without understanding the simplest way of stealing a photograph and anonymising it. No wonder you're in a tizz.