Can we please get on with our jobs?

Shame on me, the deadline is looming and I’ve still not submitted to the call for evidence into the feasibility of the Digital Copyright Exchange (DCE).

To address this I started work on my submission yesterday with the thought of airing my fascinating views on the subject both to the DCE call for evidence by Richard Hooper and here in my blog, but then an email came in from the Design Artists Copyright Society (DACS – see more about them here).

The email is a link to an online survey asking my views on Extended Collective Licensing (my views aren’t positive). Included in that email is a link to the Intellectual Property Office review of copyright which calls for evidence from copyright owners, creators and users, and which was set up in light of the Hargreaves review of copyright which also called for evidence from, among others, creators, creators’ agents, designers and end users of copyright materials.

Are you starting to see where I’m going with this? There appears to be an almost constant flow of reviews, calls for evidence, surveys and reviews of the results of reviews, calls for evidence and surveys around the issue of copyright. And this has been going on for years! It’s like an American freight train that’s become so long, the engine driver can see the back end of his own guards van as he goes round in a never-ending loop.

I’m beginning to suspect that the purpose of all these reviews is to keep some civil servants in endless employment, and to wear photographers and other creatives down until they just give up submitting evidence and the freeconomists win the argument by forfeit.

The basis of all this gravytrainery is that it’s been decided (by someone who might have a vested interest *coff* GOOGLE!) that copyright is unfit for purpose in the digital age, and so the reviews began.

What seems to be ignored is that copyright is perfectly fit for the digital age, but that systems for preventing its abuse haven’t been kept in line with the ease of the abuse. Neither has education kept pace with the sudden access that everyone now has to easily findable and replicable online content.

Copyright review

Defending my job is becoming a full-time job

The cause of creators hasn’t been helped by the big conglomerates that control a lot of copyright works, such as the music labels, film studios and mass photo libraries, all of whom have made great strides in aggravating the people who wish to access and enjoy the products they licence. So the argument about copyright is often seen as the ‘little’ people against the goliath organisations, where in fact it’s the ‘little’ creators who create the content which is then sold on by the Goliaths. When copyright is infringed, very often it’s the creator who loses out while the big organisations continue to make healthy profits from the work of others. They also have the financial clout to defend infringements more forcefully than individual creators.

Perhaps the most worrying thing of all for creators is that every time there is a review, the evidence which is seen most prominently will be that of the many people who don’t understand why they have to pay for what they can so easily copy, and the aggregators whose protection of the works doesn’t always translate into protection for those who created the works in the first place.

All of which is to say, I’ll have to get this submission done, and complete the DACS survey, AND submit to the IPO review. After which, could I please be allowed to get on with my job instead of endlessly having to defend my livelihood? Probably need to review that.

Copyright’s Last Stand?

The Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth having published its conclusions, creators of copyright material can now submit views to the Digital Copyright Exchange feasibility study being run by former chairman of Ofcom Richard Hooper which will look into what form a DCE would take.

One vision of DCE was described by Hooper during an interview on Radio 4s Today programme as an Amazon-style market place where creators could set prices for their work and buyers could browse, buy and take possession of licenses of high-resolution versions of digital works in a very streamlined process.

It’s not clear to me how this would work. How would the DCE be populated with works? Who would be adding them? Would it become a facility that can bypass the Getty-like stranglehold on licensing? Perhaps photographers would be able to upload images and sell direct, negotiating their own fees and keeping a much higher percentage of the revenue from sales. Clearly this would benefit photographers and end-users as there would be a renewed incentive for quality images to be made available.

I do fear however that fees will be set independently as it’s envisioned that the process should be as much like online retail as possible, but that this will ignore all the factors that a photographer would need to take into account such as end use or commercial/non-commercial requirements of an image.

Meanwhile, would Getty stand for this? They might find their traditional suppliers drifting away if the scheme offered better returns on their images. Alternatively, an organisation like Getty or Corbis (owned by Bill Gates) might offer to host and administer such a scheme, but that risks bringing us straight back to where we are now.

Is there not a risk that a DCE would create a two-tier copyright protection where your images are better protected if they’re in the scheme? And how is use of the scheme and images sold through it to be policed? This isn’t going to be an easy thing to set up and administer, and the internet has a habit of suddenly shifting and going off in its own direction once you try to coral the content.

Stop 43 is campaigning for better protection of photographers' copyright.

I don’t feel I’m best placed to investigate all the issues as I’ve not had the time to fully absorb the conclusions of the Hargreaves review, but take a look at the Stop 43 site which has some really useful info and ideas, and visit the Intellectual Property Office website where you can submit your views on the Digital Copyright Exchange. I urge both professional and amateur photographers to do so as this affects our ability to say where and how our own images are used. You may not like what’s coming, but this might be your only chance to shape it.