Of orphans and unhappy faces

In the footsteps of the United States senate, the UK House of Lords is about to pass a law regarding Orphan Works . The UK  law is very similar to the US one, apart from a few key elements. Similar to the US, it’s unclear what defines a reasonable search (editor: For a rights holder) and how it will be proven (editor: That a reasonable search was made). In the UK, the proposal calls for the creation of a registry. However, it also calls for the creation of a middle man body that will collect funds (unspecified how) for those images. The UK government will also take a cut, leaving the copyright owner… well …crumbles… I’m not sure why all these people have to get involved and get their cut, but they will. The trade association BAPLA which has more than 400 photo agencies as members (take that PACA) is actively trying to change and readjust this law, unless images are not licensed in the UK (why not?). This law will affect you like a pie in the face.

Editor: Check out Bapla’s release about their view on the orphan works legislation here.

In the same proposal there’s also an anti paparazzi part. A rule “that in effect will prohibit photography in public places where anyone who’s in the picture might be unhappy about being photographed.” This law, of course, applies only to pro photographers, otherwise tourists would be prevented to take pictures, and that, my friends would not be good.

Not that most ever knew they were being photographed, but most of Cartier-Bresson  subjects could have made his life a living hell with such a law, along with ours (imagine a life with no Cartier-Bresson images). Sure, everyone is tired of these hordes of photographers (not sure if that is the right term, here) snapping a 35 mm lens in a celebrity’s face as soon as they walk out the door (any door) and this gets worse at night when it’s combined with powerful flashes. However, this proposal is extreme and allows for incredible censorship. How will pros be able to take pictures of, let say, a terrorist attack? Most people will not be happy to be photographed in such an event.

In a time where rates are dropping, where photographers are begging for a Messiah, the UK Government finds comfort in adding a couple of very strong nails in the coffin. The interesting part is that, once passed, these laws will affect you, in whatever country you’re in. Whether it’s because your images would be used for free (or pennies) or because your government will take this legislation as a good example to implement in their own territory. America, you have a sleeping (not for long) orphan works legislation in the corridors of power. You might also get a similar anti pap law that will affect everyone. Should you look for help at your favourite trade organization? Be my guest. You should

About the author

“This business has too many Surveyors and not enough Bohemians”   Roger Therond , legendary photo man, once said to a good friend of mine, Eliane Laffont. This blog is about restoring the balance and letting the Bohemians talk.

Paul Melcher  has been named one of the “50 most influential individuals in American photography” by American Photo. He is currently senior vice president of the PictureGroup. He writes the Thoughts of a Bohemian blog

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

One thought on “Of orphans and unhappy faces

  • February 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I’d like to read a balanced article on this with both sides of the story. It’s still unclear if this really will have an impact on photographers incomes and what will actually happen in real life.

    Most of what I read about this subject appears to come from disgruntled conspiracy theorists which is a shame.

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