Getty Images has joined a coalition of industry organisations representing the "vast majority of photographers, artists and photographic agencies" to influence the definitive form of the Digital Economy Bill and any new regulations that will follow. The unprecedented move comes as the House of Commons prepares to debate the controversial legislation
The Bill, which had its first reading on 16 March, will now appear for a second time in front of MPs on 06 April. The timeline leaves less than two weeks for photographers to lobby their representatives to prevent the bill from being passed without proper debate.
It is feared that the current legislature will pass the Digital Economy Bill without debate as part of the government's wash-up. During a "wash-up". which takes place when an election is called, bills that have enough cross-party support are passed without proper debate. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is expected to call an election for 06 May.
The controversial legislation has brought together the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies, the National Union of Journalists, the Royal Photographic Society, the Design and Artists Copyright Society, Getty Images and the Association of Photographers in an unprecedented coalition. Update: The British Institute of Professional Photographers has now been added to the coalition.
In a joint statement, the organisations welcomed the "extensive debate on many aspects of the Digital Economy Bill that took place in the House of Lords. In particular on the question of Orphan Works, we believe the Government's concessions on Clause 43 have considerably improved the legislation. We are pleased that Orphan Works have been defined more clearly on the face of the Bill. We also welcome the fact that the Government stated at Report Stage that if they find through the forthcoming consultation that certain types of works such as contemporary photography cannot be included in the Extended Collective Licensing framework without causing harm to rights holders, there will be flexibility to exclude them."
However, the organisations say that there are still concerns about the practical implementation of the bill's intentions. "In the spirit of this new alliance," they state, "we feel it critically important to jointly highlight the key areas of the Bill that we will be addressing," such as commercial use of orphan works.
"Clause 43 would allow the Secretary of State to make regulations by Statutory Instrument to specifically allow the use of works whose creators cannot be identified," the statement reads. "However, some of the concepts involved in the use of photography are extremely complex such that that they would be unworkable unless confined to extremely limited non‐commercial permitted uses. Limitation to non‐commercial use would for all works, not just photography, limit the risk exposed to creators, users and Orphan Works registrars. Furthermore it would avoid the creation of a 'copyists charter' involving the commercial abuse of orphan works for commercial gain."
To prevent such abuse, a clear definition of what constitutes a "non‐commercial" use must be arrived at, the organisations say. "This definition must protect the commercial interests and rights of visual artists."
The coalition has also called for better protection of metadata in a bid to "help reduce the risk of images being turned into orphans in the first place."
"We intend to ensure that these concerns will be represented throughout the remaining passage of the Bill, and in the drafting of future Regulations," the coalition says. "We will make additional representations in writing and in person to explore options to secure an equitable compromise that benefits all of the individuals and organisations concerned with Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill. We will work closely with the Intellectual Property Office, in designing a regulatory regime that is practical and fair, and will continue to liaise with the parliamentarians who have raised the issue in the parliamentary debates and directly with Ministers."
BJP understands that the coalition was brought together by BAPLA, and that it intends to work as a team and speak in a single voice in future discussions with the government.
The group, which welcomes any other representative organisation to support its initiative, will also be conducting "detailed industry wide research on the above points to ensure the Bill supports this economically and culturally significant industry."
The AoP and the NUJ have also lent support to the Stop43 campaign launched by members of Editorial Photographers UK and Ireland. The British Institute of Professional Photographers, the British Press Photographers' Association, Copyright Action, Photographers' Agents London and Pro-Imaging are also supporting the Stop43 campaign.
For more information and to participate in the campaign, visit stop43.org.uk.
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