Photographers have been buzzing about the Digital Economy Bill, which is expected to shortly become law in the UK. The controversy revolves around the vague provisions for “orphaned works”, which many claim will give the government control of licensing for any photograph deemed “orphaned” after a reasonable search for the owner has been conducted. In the section “Licensing of Orphan Works”, the bill reads,
The Secretary of State may by regulations provide for authorising a licensing body or other person to do, or to grant licences to do, acts in relation to an orphan work which would otherwise require the consent of the copyright owner.
The bill proposes an “orphan works register”, to which anyone can submit photographs they find on the Internet after completing the following steps:
(a) to carry out a reasonable search to find or, if necessary, to identify and find, the owner of the interest,
(b) after the search, to publish notice of the proposal to enter the interest in an orphan works register, in a way designed to bring the proposal to the attention of the owner of that interest, and
(c) to keep a sufficient record of the steps taken under paragraphs (a) and (b) and of the results of those steps.
Once in the register, the photographs can be licensed by the government and used for commercial purposes. Essentially, this means that any photograph found on the Internet can be licensed by the UK if the person who wishes to use the work cannot find the owner after a “reasonable” search.
Here’s some further reading:
- Simon Crofts: Undermining Digital Britain
- A Photo Editor: UK Close To Approving Orphan Works
- Boing Boing: Brits: write to your MP, get transparency on secret copyright treaty!
- Copyright Action: UK Gov nationalises orphans and bans non-consensual photography in public
Let us know your thoughts on this in the comments!