Less than a week after US-based organisations submitted a joint-letter to the UK's Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to express their deep concerns over the provisions presented in Clause 68 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, European institutions have joined the protests.
Under the impulsion of Gwen Thomas of the Association of Photographers in the UK, Pyramide Europe, an organisation representing visual artists in Finland, the UK, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Greece and Italy, has written to Vince Cable to oppose the proposed copyright changes.
The bill, which was first introduced in the House of Commons in May, has been designed to "get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy" but presents a series of provisions to allow the use of Orphan Works – images that lack metadata and whose copyright owners cannot be found.
The letter, co-sponsored by Finnfoto, an organisation that represents Finish photographers, calls on the UK government to "work with stakeholders and associations representing the copyright holders to redraft the bill so as to protect and maintain the exclusive rights of foreign and UK copyright holders, in compliance with Berne, TRIPS and the spirit of copyright legislation around the world".
According to Pyramide, the proposed changes would "permit foreign works to be used without the permission of, or credit and [compensation to], the rights holder", reads the letter. "The prospect of unknown, ongoing unlicensed usage of foreign works in the UK will prevent any rights holder in any other country from licensing exclusive right to any party. Thus the value of the works during their copyrighted lifespan will be considerably devaluated."
The organisation adds: "By legalising the unlicensed exploitation of copyrighted works created and owned by foreign rights holders, the bill will conflict with, and in some cases prevent, their normal exploitation of the works in their own country or market area, unreasonably prejudicing their legitimate interests."
While the government says that foreign copyright owners will be able to monitor Orphan Works listings and notifications, Pyramide claims the process is "difficult, time-consuming and costly, and not always fair". It continues: "The registry process of foreign copyright owners in the UK is not realistic and possible to all appropriate persons. Basically, the UK has no legal right to determine the fees or other compensation in exchange for exploitation of their copyrights in the UK without laborious negotiations with representatives from every country or individual copyright holders."
Pyramide warns that if the use of foreign works in the UK is permitted, "we can anticipate international legal court cases and prolonged processes that are in no parties' favour".
It adds: "We do understand that a solution to the Orphan Works dilemma must be identified and implemented, [but] this bill permitting legalised infringement of foreign works and injecting foreign works into a UK Extended Collective Licensing scheme creates a lot of problems."
Instead, the European organisations representing visual artists and photographers call on the UK government to make the removal of metadata a crime in order to prevent the creation of new Orphan Works.
To read Pyramide Europe's original letter to the Vince Cable at the House of Commons, click here.
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