The Digital Economy Bill – a thieves charter

Imagine a world in which a thief could take the licence plate off your car, and not get punished for it. Well, perhaps that already happens, perhaps not. But what if the Government were to introduce a Bill that allows such thieves to then take that car without your consent and do whatever they like with it – including sell it on. Oh sure, they’d have to pay some peanuts to a new Government organisation, and say they’d tried really hard to find out who the owner was, but then the Government authorises them to do what they like with the car. Your car.

Sounds far fetched? If we were talking about cars I’m sure it would be. There would have been far more hue and cry about it. But this is exactly what is happening to professional photographers in the UK. The Government is introducing a Digital Economy Bill which is racing through the Lords and is likely to be passed before the next General Election. And that ain’t so far away.

This Bill has already generated some hue and cry for being badly drafted in other areas – for example Stephen Fry and TalkTalks campaign against the Digital Economy Bill”s proposal to make the owner of an internet connection liable for any “freeloading” (ie “borrowing” of their connection, often via wifi and without their knowledge) that downloads illegal software or music. But what seems to have got swept under the carpet so far is that this Bill effectively destroys the business of all professional photographers. That’s those folks who create wonderful landscape images, those folks who illustrate magazines and coffee table books with images you like to see, people who illustrate walks for magazines – people similar to me in fact – and if you need further inducement, it also includes those folks who photograph the sporting action to appear in your daily newspaper!

How? Read on here

So what can be done to help?

Three things above all:

  • Write to your MP – a useful template letter is here:
    This sums up the arguments very well, although MPs will nearly always take far more notice if you personalise it, explain how your business will be hit, and so on. If you don’t know how to contact your MP, look at – just enter your postcode.

  • Get everyone you know talking about the problem of Orphan Works and the Digital Economy Bill, and how it affects them.

  • Always watermark any images placed on the internet in such a way that it cannot be removed by thieves.

Oh and in case you were thinking it only is an issue for pro photographers, actually it hits all amateurs as well. Amateurs are least likely to have the copyright information embedded in metadata and a strong visible watermark embedded across their image. And amateurs are more likely to post their images to photosharing sites and social networking sites on the web. What better place for that organisation that doesn’t want to pay for their images to go hunting?

For more info you could do worse than look up the Creative Rights Alliance