Artists Protest New UK Instagram Legislation As Carte Blanche For Copyright Infringement

UK Photographers and Artists are up in arms at changes to the law over ‘orphan works’ passed quietly in Parliament last week.  The new legislation allows the use of copyrighted material in the circumstance that an owner cannot be contacted. Under new legislation photographs and other works of art can now be used for free without the owners’ ‘explicit permission’ as long as the publisher can prove that a “diligent search” has taken place. Artists campaigning have pointed out that the new act paves the way for the exploitation of images posted on the internet, the wild west of copyright infringement. However the government has taken the line that  the legislation makes “copyright licensing more efficient”.

The new law titled, the ‘Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act’  is supported by the government who said, “This will help the UK’s enterprise culture and help make it one of the best places to do business”. But campaign group Stop43, which represents a wide range of photographers and agencies, said the act was “premature, ill thought-out and constitutionally improper”.

Veteran British photographer David Bailey shared this concern. In a note published on Stop43’s site, he said: “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.”

‘Instagram act’ For the first time, these “orphan works” – as they are known – can be licensed for commercial or non-commercial use. However, in order to do so, the company in question would have to prove to an independent body that a “diligent search” to find and approach the copyright holder had taken place without success. If the body is satisfied there has been a sufficient search, it would then allow the company to pay a licence fee to use the material.

Stop43 requested the removal of Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing Clause 79 from the ERR Bill • Implement the EU Orphan Works Directive at the last possible moment, because it directs us to breach our obligations to foreign rights owners under the Berne Convention • Revisit IP in an Intellectual Property Bill once the Copyright Hub is operational and the government has a metadata policy, which at the moment it does not • Return responsibility for copyright to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Patentsare limited formal economic rights granted by Government upon application, and rightly handled by the Patents Office (which is an Agency of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and of which ‘Intellectual Property Office’ is an operating name). Copyright is an informal automatic combined economic, cultural and human right. It is far more appropriate for the Department for Culture to be responsible for this more subtle right than the Department for Business.

They stated that, changes to copyright law are supposed to stimulate economic growth. According to the IPO’s latest estimates, these changes are unlikely to create any growth at all. Stop43 notes that between the Hargreaves report and the IPO publishing ‘Modernising Copyright’, the IPO’s estimates for UK growth as a result of implementing Hargreaves have been reduced by 97%. Yes, 97%: ‘Hargreaves growth’ is now estimated to be only 3% of that originally estimated and amounts to around 80p per UK taxpayer per year. This is risible. Once costs to rights owners ignored in the Impact Assessments have been factored in, we’re probably looking at a net contraction of the UK economy:

Image: © Artlyst 2014 The Getty Images watermark has been added for artistic purposes only. Warning: This is not a Getty image!

Related Posts

Rainsongs, the new book by Sue Hubbard, out now
Open Source Salon with Hauser and Wirth - A new monthly discussion group
Advertise your next show on Artlyst from £200 per week