While I was away a historic event happened in the photography world. The combined groundswell of professional photographers opinion changed the course of law when Clause 43 got dropped from the Digital Economy Bill. I’m not sure if this has ever happened before, I’m certainly not aware of photographers opinion actually managing to make itself heard well enough to prevent such as disastrous law coming into power in this way.
And so this appears to mark a turning point in the course of recent history, where photographers stood up and were counted and their voices made a positive difference, in a world where it seems as if photographers have almost become regarded as de-facto criminals by many that seek to uphold the law, rather than the reality that in many cases we’re the victims of theft – more usually of our images, rather than our equipment!
It seems this ground-breaking change in the Bill was in no small part due to the actions of Stop43.org and Jeremy Nicholl in getting timely, readable and comprehensible information about the flaws in the Proposed Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill out for general consumption on the web.
As well as this, both Stop43.org and other key photographers organisations (with a noteable exception of BAPLA, who as Jeremy Nicholl points out, seemed to have more of an eye on becoming a distributor of orphan works licences than upholding the rights of their members and professional photographers who enable their existence!) provided vital in lobbying the government to help them understand how badly this clause would impact professional photographers. And some key MP’s including Austin Mitchell (who proposed an Early Day Motion to scrap Clause 43) and Peter Luff (who picked up on the Conservative and Labour political ad copyright breaches which highlighted perfectly one of the main problems with the clause) who stood up and raised some of the issues in front of sustained opposition from those that wanted to force it through, regardless of the cost to all photographers – both amateur and professional.
Clause 43 is now dead – not as many feared, rushed through in wash-up to get it through under the radar. As mentioned on Stop43.org, this gives us professional photographers a chance to offer alternative suggestions to the original problem – to allow museums to display works of cultural heritage where the copyright owner has long since become unknown.
And in doing so, to be in a position to help get some of the many issues with the current copyright act considered fairly. In particular, the current problem (which Clause 43 would not have helped) of obtaining redress for breaches of copyright – at all, and at a reasonable rate so that it is no longer in the interests of offenders to breach copyright knowing that even if the breach is detected, that they won’t be liable for anything more than the original cost of the licence! In the words of Stop43 – “an informal, low cost, quick, online method of enforcing rights and obtaining compensation for breaches. To deter infringement it is essential that the penalty for a breach is significantly greater than the lawful cost would have been, even if not all of the money charged to an infringer gets paid to the rights owner”.