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February 14, 2010


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Looks like scaremongering to me.

Looking at the proposed legislation, use of a work will only be possible if licenced by an authorised body (not just any old body, but one that has applied for the power and been approved by government). A work cannot be licenced unless an extensive search has been carried out and failed to find the rights holder.

Anybody who does not carry out a sufficiently diligent search may have their authorisation removed, be held in breach of statutory duty and be fined up to £50k. Rather more of a deterrant than exists to one-off copyright infringement at present!

Finally, as you can see from the Hansard debate transcripts, the government is aware that different sectors have different needs and has conceded that if it is impossible to create a scheme in a particular area (such as contemporary photography) that doesn't unfairly impact on rights holders, then they have the flexibility to not authorise any bodies to act in this sphere.

Also worth noting that none of this actually changes the current law until secondary legislation is drafted over the coming years (it is all in essence a reserved power). There will apparently be a wide consultation before we reach that stage, so there should be plenty of chances to make sure any concerns are heard.

Seb Rogers

Thanks Matt, some interesting insight there.

But I don't think it's scaremongering to be aware of the changes and to voice concerns to your MP, if you think it's appropriate. That is, after all, what they're there for.

Whilst the prospect of a £50k fine sounds great on paper, it's hard to see how it might be applied in practice. What is an 'extensive search'? How does one prove that it's been done?

It doesn't help that the very metadata which can be used to contact the copyright owner of a photograph is routinely stripped out of the file in all kinds of day-to-day processes, including by many websites.

I take your point that it's early days and that there is at least some awareness that the same scheme may not be applicable to all sectors. Still, I think it's right for photographers to be concerned and appropriate to raise those concerns with the people who are in a position to do something about it.


Absolutely agree that it is useful to be aware of these things and you should voice any concerns you have. The scaremongering comment was actually aimed at the tone of the article you linked to, which rather exagerates the ease with which someone could misuse the system.

The requirements for a diligent search for example are actually outlined in the legislation (and are based on best practice guidelines developed by the European Libraries Expert Group for locating absent rights holders). The steps outlined are quite extensive and will be further fleshed out in the secondary legislation. It's also quite easy to prove whether somebody has searched all relevant databases, advertised their intentions in the relevant sector press etc etc.

The meta-data point is a good one, but a very hard one to fix. Legislating for technology specific issues tends to do more harm than good, so the ideal answer would be industry led work to better respect standards in this area. It is however already a breach of your copyright if someone removes metadata knowing that it may facilitate infringement (s296ZG of the copyright Act).


An anti Digital Economy/Orphan Works site has been set up at and a Facebook group where you can register your opposition

Seb Rogers

Thanks Oliver. See my more recent post...

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