New Thinking on Copyright

It was largely the work of that succeeded in getting the disastrous proposals on orphan works (Clause 43) removed from the Digital Economy Act that was rushed through in the closing days of the Labour government.

The problem that so many of us found when we wrote to MPs and got replies from ministers and shadow ministers was that they really had no real idea of how the markets worked in photography and of the importance of intellectual property rights in general. MPs and peers were being made to vote on things they didn’t understand, written by civil servants (with more than a little help from the major industry players who stood to gain financially at the expense of the creators.) The people at ‘Stop43’ write:

We promised the new Government that we, creators, would produce New Thinking to replace the inequitable and unworkable ideas behind Clause 43

and they have, and it is most impressive. In outline they state:

We propose to allow “cultural use” of so-called orphan works and for this cultural use to switch all other uses and users to “known” works, to stimulate cultural and economic activity to the benefit of everyone.

To enable this we propose some changes to current copyright law and the establishment of a National Cultural Archive, which must be free to use.

You can download the detailed document ‘The New Thinking‘ or read the details on their web site. It really does take a new look at the whole area and make what appear to be well thought out and practical proposals. And very much at its basis is the “granting of Inalienable Moral Rights, copyright and fair contract law.”As well as covering the usage of so-called “orphans” it also includes ways in which works might be re-united with their creators. Moral rights of course  include that of attribution, which if implemented would reduce if not eliminate the loss of the connection.

The proposal was first presented at the recent UK National Photography Symposium in Derby, where the audience expressed almost universal support, although unfortunately I was unable to attend.

It’s something I think all photographers should read, and not just in the UK.  Almost everyone has long recognised that copyright needs to be international – even if some major countries have had some rather peculiar if not perverse implementations of the international agreements.

I don’t for a moment think that we will get legislation from the current UK government that does everything in the proposal – and I’m sure there will be very strong opposition from several powerful lobbies. But I think this is an important document in the debate, and one that I hope will change its course.

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