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.

Electile Dysfunction Problems – what’s next?

We may have just had the most exciting election since Blair took power from the Tories in 1997, but the result has been somewhat surreal and indecisive. At least now David Dimbleby can finally take a nap and Gordon Brown can finally switch his smile off for good. No more face-strain for Gordon, no more wincing for us.

I suppose we have to accept that the most pressing job of the new government will be to sort out the dog’s breakfast we laughingly call our economy, though to be fair to Gordon and Labour, it really wasn’t their fault. The problem is, as it’s not the Government’s fault, by logical extension there also isn’t a great deal any government can do to correct it apart from push some debt around until it pops up somewhere else, like a fiscal version of whack-a-mole.

I don’t wish to dwell too much on the economy though. I’m happy to leave it to others with far larger brains than mine to make an even bigger mess of it at the expense of those of us least able to cope with the consequences. What I’m really interested in for the purpose of this blog is what a Tory/Lib Dem government will do about copyright, orphan works and extended collective licensing.

photo of tile mural in sicily protected by copyright watermark.

Will all photos on the net have to be disfigured just to protect them?

Yes, I know it’s not a major issue right this minute, but it will become one very quickly and we can’t be sure when it will sit up and slap us in the face, so we need to be prepared.

Let’s look back first to those halcyon days when a Parliament wasn’t hung and prime ministers weren’t a double act. When the Digital Economy Bill was passed into law (the DEB almost certainly will be revisited soon) and the orphan works clause was debated, albeit briefly, in the Commons.

What happened then, just to recap, was that under lobbying pressure from photographers and the Stop43 campaign, Conservatives (with an eye on the electoral prize) agreed to drop Clause 43, while Labour (perhaps thinking they had more chance of a majority than they actually did) decided they didn’t need to drop Clause 43 – or perhaps it was their bargaining chip for getting the rest of the DEB through all along, whatever. Meanwhile, Don Foster for the Lib Dems argued to amend the clause, but keep it. This despite the fact he’d been told in great detail why this was a bad idea.

So now that we have a Tory/Lib Dem coalition government, do we really know where the parties stand? The Conservatives said at the time of the DEB debate that there would need to be a proper review of copyright, OW and ECL after the election, and it would appear that at face value they have some sympathy with photographers and other creators of original content. But then we have the Lib Dems, who clearly don’t understand the issues.

With some luck the Lib Dems will see the light, and the Tories won’t be lobbied so mercilessly by publishers, aggregators and content thieves that they lose sight of the fact that photographers generate a great deal of wealth for business and the country. It’s part of our industry and our culture. It’s our heritage too. Without professional photographers, all users of images would suffer and visual innovation would stall.

It’s going to require a mammoth effort from core groups of photographers to draw up required minimum standards for any review and subsequent legislation, but it will also require the effort of individuals who claim to care about photography. They will need to keep in close contact with local groups, who in turn should keep an eye on developments at national level so that when the time comes, our voices won’t be drowned out by big business and freetards.