The photographic industry has given a mixed reception to the government's broad acceptance of the Hargreaves Review of intellectual Property systems earlier this week.
The British Photographic Council, an umbrella body representing the views of 13 organisations, was first to respond, saying it is "dismayed" at the government's response, which it observes "seems weighted in favour of big business and individual consumers, while the interests of creators have mostly been ignored".
The BPC issued its statement following last week's announcement that the government intended to bring in sweeping reforms to intellectual property rights, based on the findings of Professor Hargreaves' report, Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth - including orphan works legislation and a new centralised licensing system called the Digital Copyright Exchange.
The Association of Photographers issued its own statement this week, saying that while the response "embraces some positives" (such as begining a small claims route for copyright infringement through the County Court system), there are also many areas of concern to professional photographers that have not been addressed since the Hargreaves report was published in May.
Both organisations condemned the government for its failure to address the issue of moral rights, and in particular the right to be indentified as the creator of a work, which the organisations say is crucial to the development of better intellectual property law. If new legislation is to introduce a licensing system for orphan works (whose copyright owner is not known or easily traced), this right to identification is vital, they say, adding that it could "leave the door open to commercial exploitation" if such uses aren't clearly defined. They did, however, welcome the announcement that fees collected for orphan uses should reflect their proper commercial value.
The BPC statement also expresses its "suspicion" of the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange, noting that, "Photographers require the right to know not only who is licensing their work but to whom their work is licensed, and to be able to refuse a license to unsavoury publishers whose toxicity might damage the photographer's reputation."
The AOP has adopted a similarly cautious approach, pointing out that no detail has been given as to how the exchange would operate. In its more detailed statement, it also said:
• It welcomes the idea of the exchange as "as an independent marketplace where rights holders can set their own rates and that participation should be free to both creators and users with open standards so that access to such a database can be automated through software solutions".
• Participation should be voluntary.
• It agrees that any proposals for extended collective licensing "should be adoptive rather than enforced on any sectors in the industry".
• Proposals for the small claims procedure are hindered by the "value for money" caveat that's been attached.
• The current proposed ceiling of £5000 for claims should be raised to £10,000.
• The proposed limited private copying exception "makes sense"
• It is dismayed that the burden of educating consumers about the changes will fall on rights holders.
*This article has changed substantially since first published last week.
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