Here’s part of an analysis piece from The Register:

Analysis Photographers, illustrators and authors will be amongst those to lose their digital rights under radical new proposals published by the Government today. New legislation is proposed that would effectively introduce a compulsory purchase order, but without compensation, across an unlimited range of creative works, for commercial use.

Millions of amateurs who today post their images to Flickr and automatically receive the full protection of the law, would also lose, unless they opted-out.

The changes involve orphan works reform – floated as Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Act in 2010 but killed off by photographers – and an Extended Collective Licensing (ECL) program. The white paper follows intense lobbying by the culture sector and large corporate users of copyright works, such as Google, who wish to lower their costs.

It would operate roughly like this. A new agency, let’s call it ‘Bastard Ltd’ could apply to become a licensing authority for a given class of work, for example, cartoons or poems. It could then license any work in that class without the rightsholder’s permission, for any fee it cares to set, so long as it was “significantly representative of rights holders affected by the scheme”. Amazingly, Bastard Ltd would have no obligation to return revenue gained to the rightsholder, if it couldn’t find them. The obligation would fall upon the rightsholder to keep the agency updated at all times – the reverse of the law today. The Government calls the proposals ‘voluntary’, but it’s actually anything but: if you don’t like it, you too will have to opt out.

It’s certainly great news for large publishers, and wannabe-publishing empires such as the British Library, and other large corporate interests, but that freedom comes at a price. The fundamental presumption of international copyright agreements is turned upside down by the proposal, and this assures a bumpy ahead for the Government. How so?

Thanks to Richard Herley for the tip.


  1. Note that this does not affect only UK copyright owners; it affects copyright owners around the world. If the entity that wants to exploit your work does not know who you are or where to find you, they also don’t know whether you are a UK copyright owner.

  2. “Bastard Ltd would have no obligation to return revenue gained to the rightsholder, if it couldn’t find them.”

    There’s a legal principle that you can’t be legally obliged to do the impossible. If that can be applied to bring some sense to the world of orphaned works under copyright, then let’s do it, ASAP.

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