It ain’t Orphan ’till the fat lady sings…

stop43 viral image

If the DEB becomes law with S43 in tact, your photos become fair game.

Today’s the day. Not only will Gordon Brown pay a little visit to Buckingham Palace to ask if he can dissolve Parliament (yes please!), and give us our chance to vote for the frying pan or the fire, the blunt axe or the sharp one, but it’s also the day the Digital Economy Bill gets its Parliamentary debate (such as it will be) and will either be voted through in the wash-up, or dropped. If it goes through, it may or may not include Section 43 which deals with orphan works.

In the Parliamentary equivalent of a smoke-filled room, all the horse trading between vested interests, and personal ambitions of departing politicians with an eye on their post-political careers, will come into play. Forget democracy, this is a seedy little private auction for business and career interests.

There is hope though, even at this late stage. A couple of days ago, the conservatives announced they would oppose Section 43. But of course there is still a risk of a last-minute change of mind (they are politicians after all), and we’re still not entirely sure which way the Lib Dems want to go. They’ve made encouraging noises about how Section 43 should be changed, but no clear commitment to oppose it at this stage. Personally, I hope they have the integrity to oppose the entire DEB on the basis that one afternoon isn’t enough time to debate anything as complicated and contentious as this bill. If they do that, and the Conservatives stick to their announced opposition, the bill would fail to be passed.

We have to believe that at the very least, Section 43 will get dropped. The amount of time and effort expended by my colleague photographers in fighting this ridiculous bill could have been better spent doing our jobs or completing VAT returns and getting our books up together for the end of the financial year. But no, some daft politician somewhere managed to come up with a system of dealing with orphan works which was so insanely un-balanced and damaging to our profession that we had to pour all our efforts into this.

And before you start playing your violins for us, remember that even if you are not a professional photographer, even if you are not based in the UK and even if you only take photos of your drunk pals on a Friday night, if some commercial or political organisation thinks your pictures are worth stealing and using without payment or permission, the orphan works legislation would affect you. If you’re in a photo taken by someone else that gets used without payment or permission, this legislation would affect you.

So let’s wish Gordon a nice trip to the Palace and hope all this effort has paid off.

Read more and keep up with latest developments here: copyrightaction and here: stop43

Jeremy Nicholl’s excellent blog continues to inform on the developments. Click here for more.

The Great Green Debate

seagulls flocking on landfill tip site or trash and rubbish

Seagulls can't eat cameras. Their apertures are too small.

The response to my post “How Green is Your Photography?” was pretty interesting, and highlighted some useful resources for photographers wishing to take a less Magenta approach to their work (rubbish, nerdy in-joke. Sorry).

So what’s to do with this environment thing and photography? I suppose we could all just stop taking pictures and have our cameras turned into ploughshares. Small, rubbish ones, but once you melt a camera down, there aren’t many things it’s good for. When it comes to Samsung cameras, you don’t even have to melt them down to achieve “useless” status.

I started this subject because some time ago I’d been pondering the issue of the environment and how photographers might do their bit, bearing in mind that what we do isn’t exactly eco-friendly. Then I bumped into Chris at Park Lane Press Limited, which is based near me, and he showed me the waterless lithographic printing facility they have at their Corsham plant. I was impressed that the print quality, even on difficult, recycled paper stock was at least as good, and often better than I’d seen on the same papers using traditional printing methods.

This system is perfect for commercial clients wishing to use a more eco-friendly approach to brochure and annual report printing, but it also got me thinking about eco-friendly printing for photo prints. A chance comment from Rick Colson of EcoVisual Communications in Wayland, Massachusetts (who use post-industrial cotton waste papers) on one of my other articles got me thinking there must be eco-friendly photo printers in the UK too, though an internet search didn’t throw up any obvious candidates. So if you know of a truly eco-friendly photo printer in the UK, do let me know. Not just one with the word “eco” shoehorned into their mission statement.

Comments to my previous article suggested ways we can be more considerate in our use of energy, materials, photo and computer equipment. One respondent had seen an article in which a macro photographer glued ants to a twig to get a better closeup. Perhaps not the eco-crime of the century, but I’d hate to see this practice extended to lions, tigers and pandas. For a start, the amount of glue required to stick a polar bear to an ice floe would certainly be environmentally problematic.

I’ve made some simple conclusions, but feel free to add your comments. I’d like to update the article with useful links once I have a few more.

I’m ambivalent about transport. Use public transport where possible, but personally that isn’t often feasible, at least in the UK. Changing your car for something “greener” will cause more harm than good as most of the environmental impact of running a car is in its manufacture. Simply try driving more considerately. This will save fuel and wear and tear.

Rechargeable batteries are so much better than they used to be, so there’s no excuse for creating a mountain of spent alkalines any more. Try charging at night, perhaps using a timer socket so you’re not charging them all night. Power drawn at night uses electricity that would otherwise be dissipated  and wasted.

Eek out your kit. Don’t keep upgrading. Spend more on kit that lasts longer. I’m not a cheerleader for Apple, but my MacBook Pro is over two years old and going as well as the day I unpacked it. Most PC laptops are getting clapped out after 9 months (cue flame-grilled Timmy as the PC brigade rush to defend their honour).

Recycle and dispose of waste responsibly. Even electronics and dead batteries will be handled by your local amenity tip.

Link up with Green Photographers Network to learn more or share ideas.

And here’s one to really stir things up. I know stock images are here to stay, but I also believe that driving around, shooting thousands of photos nobody asked for and a tiny number of which will ever get published, isn’t a good way for photographers to protect the environment. Let’s not get into the issue of server space and energy required to host all those pictures of kittens and businessmen standing in fields.

Next time you need a photo of a polar bear on an ice floe, commission a local photographer to shoot it for you. Glue will be extra.

No polar bears were harmed as a result of writing this article, but the Pandaburger was yummy.