As reported by Jeremy Nicholl on the Russian Photos Blog, the subject of orphan works is back on the political agenda in the UK. Orphan works are where a publisher may use intellectual property such as photos without paying the originator a royalty if they have not been able to locate who produced the work having made ‘reasonable efforts’ to do so. The last UK government attempted to introduce this type of legislation in Clause 43 of the all-encompassing “Digital Economy” bill which also included heavy fines or banning users who downloaded music via peer-to-peer file sharing sites. Clause 43 was eventually removed from the bill and shortly afterwards, there was a change of government.
What is especially concerning for copyright owners (especially those without significant legal muscle) is how quickly this is being put back on the agenda so quickly after it was forced to be removed:
“Proponents of Orphan Works legislation like to play the culture card: for instance claiming that current copyright laws prevent museums and galleries displaying work of unknown provenance, and that OW legislation would free them from those shackles. But the fight over Clause 43 exposed many of the true movers and shakers behind Orphan Works legislation, all of them organisations with a stake in the commercial exploitation of such work.” [Read More]
The new UK coalition government lead by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is seemingly being pressurised by Google, The BBC and other larger media businesses with vested interests and considerable political clout to introduce a form of orphan works legislation. As Jeremy points out:
“The Cameron intellectual property review is of course the result of Google whispering in No.10’s ear. It’s not, after all, very difficult for the search engine giant and the coalition government to indulge in a little pillow talk: Google Vice-President Rachel Whetstone is married to Cameron’s Director of Strategy Steve Hilton.” [Read More]
It is questionable whether there is any political motivation to stand up to this pressure on behalf of the rights of photographers and other independent intellectual property owners and they may need to defend their existing rights once more by opposing further orphan works legislation.