Stop 43

You’ll have heard of the Digital Economy Bill: it introduces powers to cut your Internet connection if you’re caught illegally downloading films, music or software. It does more than that. It takes your photographs from you, too.

Until now, if someone found one of your photographs and wanted to use it commercially, they couldn’t without first asking you. Clause 43 changes all that by allowing the use of ?Orphan Works? – photographs, illustrations and other artworks whose owners cannot be found.

Clause 43 says that if someone finds your photograph, wants to use it and decides that they can?t trace you, they can do whatever they like with it after paying an arbitrary fee to a UK Government-appointed ?licensing body?. You?ll never know unless you happen to find it being used in this way, in which case you might be able to claim some money.

There?s more. Clause 43 also introduces ?Extended Collective Licensing?.

This means that if someone finds your photograph and can trace you, they still don?t have to contact you for permission to use it. They can go to a UK Government-appointed ?collecting society? and ask them instead. They?ll pay an arbitrary fee and be able to do whatever they like with the photograph. Your photograph. Again, without asking you first.

At, least, so we think – because the Bill leaves much of this undefined, unclear and to be dealt with by secondary legislation based on ?consultation? that the Government can ignore. Can you imagine what this would mean if we were talking about cars rather than photographs?