Don’t be submissive, submit now!

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed the tardy arrival of this article. It’s all my fault. I’ve been busy working on new projects, assignments and whotnot, plus last week was half term which made for all kinds of interesting time conflicts.

But as if there wasn’t enough to be a-getting on with, the deadline for the Hargreaves intellectual property review has been looming fast, and this Friday (March 4th 2011) is the last date for submissions. I’ve been working on my submission, and I can’t stress this enough; other photographers have GOT to get their submissions in too, or forever hold your manhoods (and copyright) cheap. Do not complain later that you never got a say in how your work is exploited commercially by anyone who happens to steal it.

And businesses that commission original, exclusive photography for their websites, brochures, annual reports and the like should also consider dropping Mr Hargreaves a line, because if the worst case scenario comes to pass, it will no longer be possible to hold exclusive rights to images (whether taken by a professional or in-house) once they’re posted online, and photographers like myself may have even less say in how the work we do for you is used by others. Frankly, the current safeguards against image theft on the internet are pretty meaningless, and this is one area where the law needs to be strengthened.

Another area is that of attribution. Every photo a professional photographer takes should (if they know what they’re doing) have data embedded which gives the copyright status of the image and contact details of the photographer. It’s called metadata, and it’s imperative that any future law makes it clear that that metadata must be preserved as an image is uploaded to, moved around and/or downloaded from the internet or moved (or copied) from one medium to another to prevent the creation of so-called orphan works.

My submission is shaping up to be an explanation of the problems photographers currently face; a lack of understanding of the value of copyright, publishers and news organisations using pictures from the internet as if it were a vast, free stock photo library for them to use as they wish, and the lack of any real sanctions for photographers who find their work being misappropriated. I explain that many of the exclusive deals I have with my clients will be rendered useless unless unscrupulous businesses and publishers are forced to accept that they have to pay for their own content just like everyone else.

It’s a short article this week, because I’ve still some work to do on my submission while also trying to get work done, so I’ll leave you with the tools you’ll need to get your own submissions written and in before the deadline. Why are you still here? GO!GO!GO! and write your submission now…

Hargreaves Call for Evidence.

How to submit responses.

Cover sheet (must accompany your response!)

Meet Mr Hargreaves.

Stop43 has a tonne of information for you.

No photo this week. I didn’t want it nicked…

 

 

Groundhog Year for Photographers

Another year, another copyright review. When have we been here before? It’s like Groundhog Day, but on an annual basis. Ok, maybe not quite yearly but there have been quite a number of reviews and proposed changes to legislation in recent years. Of course for the purposes of this article, I’m concentrating on copyright as it relates to photography.

Most reviews look at copyright in the round, and often the photographer’s concerns are drowned in the din of discussion about whether or not Cliff Richard should continue to make money from his sound recordings long after he’s gone into cryogenic suspension.

copyright stamp

Is copyright really so outdated?

The latest copyright review, currently underway, aims to bring UK copyright into the 21st century. My only problem with this concept is that copyright is fine, but what is lacking is education and understanding. And yet again photography will be seen as some hobbyist’s side-show and not worth considering, but I suspect this is because the professional photographic industry is less vocal than the music, movie and gaming software industries. Plus photographers tend to be solitary souls working in isolation and aren’t seen as a coherent industry.

It doesn’t help that many professional photographers don’t understand basic copyright or licensing, and many are reluctant to speak out, favouring the approach of leaving it all to someone else to lobby and campaign to save their means of income.

Neither does it help that those bodies which are meant to represent professional photographers don’t seem to understand the issues either. The Royal Photographic Society slipped up badly during the debate of the Digital Economy Bill in 2010 by supporting the orphan works clause so let’s hope they and others have learned from that experience.

In fact orphan works is bound to raise its head once again in this current review. Just to explain, orphan works are creative works which become “orphaned” from their creator through the stripping of any identifying information. It’s easily done on the internet, and all too easy for those wishing to steal photos for their own gain.

Orphan works also include anything currently lounging in museums, libraries or other archives which have no traceability back to a “parent” creator, and there is a case for making these works available for research or inclusion in other culturally beneficial works. The problem is, lobbyists want any legislation that releases those works to also cover any photo taken by anyone at any time. Including the photos you’ve taken or will take in future. And they want to be able to exploit or licence those photos for any use they can think of without having to negotiate fees and usage with you. This would happen under a system known as Extended Collective Licensing.

This would ride roughshod over copyright law, which allows a creator the final say on how, where and when their work is used as well as, of course, at what price. For commercial and social photographers this would cause a nightmare as much of what we shoot is commissioned exclusively for clients. How can we protect that exclusivity if orphan works legislation allows unfettered access to images which may have been stolen in the first place?

Unless photographers, amateur and professional, pull together we are going to get lumped with legislation that will make it virtually impossible to protect our work. For more information on the current review, click here. Even if you’re not a professional, it’s worth signing up to blogs like mine and the EPUK Weekly News which will aim to keep you informed of developments, because there will come a moment when you will need to lobby your MP and MEP on this issue.

Funny Tim is away this week. He’ll be back again soon.

 

Thanks to http://www.obsidiandawn.com/ for the Photoshop effects brush I used in this week’s illustration.

Cameron reveals “I am the walrus goo goo goo Google.”

This article had been destined to talk about the appointment of Andrew Parsons as official Downing Street Photographer. A subject upon which indignant middle-Englanders could really grind their teeth, a favourite past-time for Daily Mail readers.

However, my plans changed when I read the BBC article about David Cameron’s intended review of UK copyright laws. Might this be my chance to grind my own teeth about something? Again?

stop 43 campaign logo modified

ALL photographers need to work together for fairer copyright laws.

It’s taken a while for the review to be announced because, to put it mildly, the government has been rather busy with other things. However, it was a pledge of the Tories in the wake of the passing of the Digital Economy Bill (passed in the fag end of the Labour government) to re-visit the issue of copyright because part of that bill, the Orphan Works clause, got ditched as a result of coordinated, intelligent campaigning by photographers and specifically the Stop43 group. This time, the remit for unauthorised use might not even be limited to orphan works.

So here we jolly well are then, another six-month review of copyright (there have been one or two previous reviews, largely ignored) and this time David’s stated aim is to make UK copyright law “fit for the internet age.” A slightly worrying statement given that in his announcement he refers to a claim by the founders of Google that businesses such as theirs would never have launched in the UK because apparently our copyright laws are tighter than those in the US.

In the main, our copyright laws aren’t much tighter than those of the US, not that Google ever took much notice of the boundaries of US copyright law either . It’s fair to say that Google would love to be able to move through the internet like some content-consuming blue whale, monstrous mouth agape and everything in its path swallowed up whole and ready for commercial exploitation. Whale poo for sale, made from other people’s creative works.

The statement mentions the rights of creators, but we need to be sure this is more than just lip-service, especially as the BBC article states: “The six month review will look at what the UK can learn from US rules on the use of copyright material without the rights holder’s permission.”

That phrase “without the rights holder’s permission” is problematic because the boundaries of what is and isn’t acceptable will need to be set, and you can bet the likes of Google will lobby hard to have it set in their favour. They’ll assume that whatever they do, creators will continue to create. Not if their work is constantly stolen and devalued, they won’t. And as usual, the rights of consumers who have paid for that content won’t be taken into account.

My clients won’t take kindly to finding work I’ve shot for them turning up elsewhere, outside of their control and possibly misrepresenting them. And with my right to control use diminished, I will no longer be able to defend my clients’ rights over the pictures they’ve paid for.

That the review will happen is a good thing, but the starting position needs to be more positively in favour of creators and holders of intellectual property, for whom the internet has been a great way to get their work “out there” and get seen, but which mechanism has often led to mass theft rather than mass commissioning of fresh, or licensing of existing, work.

Another big risk is that as with previous reviews the government will turn to the wrong people when seeking advice from the side of the creators, just as it did in the early days of the DEB debate. It’s all very well talking to the National Union of Journalists, who have failed in the past to stand and fight the photographer’s corner, and whose only concern (naturally and understandably) is news photographers. Or the Royal Photographic Society, whose membership consists largely of people with little or no reliance on photography for an income. There are numerous groups whose focus is either too narrow, or membership not representative of the professional photographer.

This time, the government must listen to a much broader range of photographic groups and individuals than the Labour government did during their reviews. They must also dismiss the selfish wishes of those who simply find copyright inconvenient to their wants. This review could influence a law which might not change again for 30 years or more, so if the government wants to get it right, they’ll need to listen to the right people, not just the likes of Google, Facebook and whoever the “next big thing” happens to be. Mr Cameron will need to slip off the Google goggles, and see the reality that faces the UK’s creative individuals.