Thursday, 29 January 2009

Copyright Policy Consultation

Although I mentioned this briefly a couple of weeks ago, and was expecting photographers (and other creators) all around the country to be talking about the IPO consultation on copyright, things appear to be very quiet.

So I apologise to everyone for banging on about this now, but it simply is too important an issue not to stand on rooftops and shout about it

This is a Government consultation, which I first learned of in the middle of December via the NUJ. The response in writing from creators is required by 6th February. The National Union of Journalists, the Association of Photogrpahers, British Association of Picture libraries and Agencies are all putting in submissions, and I am sure many of the other organisations that represent photographers will also be working hard.

So what is this consultation about?

It amounts to nothing less than the opportunity to completely rewrite our laws on Copyright. Well, more to the point as we are in Europe we are being given the opportunity to revise our current copyright laws, lose some of the nonsense such as magazine and newspapers not having to provide a credit, and to acquire extra rights such as in Germany where Copyright is an unalienable right under law, and the holy grail of having our rights as creators upheld by law, and getting laws introduced that allow us to chase copyright infringers and charge penalties for misuse, and to make this affordable for sole traders.

This is probably one of the most important issues we will have to deal with for some time, and it has been overshadowed somewhat by the current economic situation. I have prepared my own submission to the consultation, and I am aware that a number of others have too.

John Toner at the NUJ has been to several meetings with representatives of the IPO and it seems clear that this is an excellent opportunity to improve the copyright law hugely. But this will only happen if it is made clear how important copyright is to us as creators. If we just sit back and let our organisations do all the work for us, good job though they will all do, it will not have as much impact as if thousands of creators also write and reinforce what they say. Each of us has individual experiences, all of which will help make our case.

This is an opportunity to get our rights to be recognised as the authors of our work enshrined in law - which will go a long way towards preventing payment avoidance and orphan works.

This is equally an opportunity to get legal backing to prevent stealing of our images and giving us the affordable means of obtaining not just payment but reparations for theft and misuse.

Also there is the possibility of raising the bar in the UK and introducing concepts that are current in several European Countries (particularly Germany) where copyright is an unalienable right, which publishers simply cannot take.

The IPO are asking us to tell them about instances where our copyright and moral rights are abused, they wanton see some of the simply foul contracts that are rolled out by some of the biggest Publishers in the land. If we do not make it clear that we are unhappy with these bad practices it will be assumed by implication that we do not object. This is simply the best opportunity we will ever get to establish some fairness in the area of copyright and the way we work.

My own submission is far from all encompassing, but I am willing to share it with any who are interested (e-mail me

The BJP has taken up the baton on our behalf, and we, as individuals need to support this and other initiaves and make it clear that we do care about copyright and not let this opportunity slip.

Ideally, every creator, especially photographers should make their opinions known. Enough of moaning around pub tables now is the time we can actually make a difference for photographers.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

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