Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Digital Economy Bill , what's yours is ours

So you're walking down the street minding your own, while blanking out the majority of the advertisements which cover any free flat surface, when out of the corner you see an image that looks very familiar. You do a double take, then stop and realise that the image being used is one of you’re personal photo’s that you posted on your blog/bookface for you’re friends to see and here it is up on the side of a building.

What do you do?

Well, as it stands you can dispute the misuse of copyright in the small claims court and as long as you can prove ownership, you’re probably quite likely to get a positive result as seen here.

However, getting recompense in the future might be a bit more difficult under new plans in the Digital Economy Bill. A well written article can be read here, however as I understand it after being "lucky" enough to see the misuse of you’re image, you’ll have to prove it's yours. The company that used it can claim that it is an orphan (one which had no identifiable data embedded) so how were they to know it was not free to use. You will then go through a, presumably, lengthy claims process where instead of getting to keep all the proceeds, you’ll settle for a percentage of it split with the government and whatever agency that is being created to deal with this sort of thing.

This seems so ridiculous on so many levels, least of all because the internet is not subdivided by country. Does this mean that abusing British images will be fine but others can’t be used or that the United Kingdom will become home to an orphan image making industry?

Could you imagine this happening to any other digital media industry? The photography industry, just like the music/films/software industry, is losing out to the data sharing that the internet enables but somehow is getting less protection from digital theft, probably because unlike the music industry, the photographic one is largely unrepresented in the public eye.

It seems professional photographers have more to lose from this bill, which is probably true, but amateurs are more likely to be abused, as most don’t think to watermark their images, won’t be looking for their unauthorised use and will be altogether easier targets. As far as I can see if this goes through, which I unfortunately don’t doubt, we can look forward to your family photo’s being used to advertise a Czech grocery stores, and photo’s of you’re son being used for articles that you’d rather not be associated with.

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