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