BAPLA Reacts to accusations

The British Association of Picture Libraries (BAPLA) has reacted to a number of accusations and assumptions that have been doing the rounds on the web with regards to their stance on the digital economy bill in the UK. Here’s the full transcript:



Sentiments from all quarters around the Digital Economy Bill are riding high.
Regarding Clause 43, the UK’s legislative approach to Orphan Works (OW) and their proposed management, some have turned their attention towards BAPLA and its role in the debate. We would like to make a number of things clear regarding this.

The British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies is a democratic body, run by a board that allows any member to stand for election every year. We represent the whole body of businesses that supply images and do not distinguish one business model from another. If they are professionally involved in this line of business then we welcome their membership and involvement which we hope would be active and not passive. Currently on the board, we have a broad mix of sole traders (photographers), small and medium libraries, specialist and larger libraries.

The founders of BAPLA fought hard to ensure that it represented a wide and not narrow body of interests, and we continue that tradition. The current board have all worked and agreed on the BAPLA position on the Digital Economy Bill, with the aim of working to ensure that rights holders were best placed to influence the right legislative changes for all creators including photographers in the copyright debate. Our work was based NOT on whether Clause 43 stayed or went – but on influencing the detail and the debate in this and all future legislation that will affect our industry, whether that is of benefit to a photographer or a global picture library.
BAPLA publicly stated that it had grave concerns over the application of Extended Collective Licensing (ECL) to images. BAPLA lobbied to see ECL removed from the Bill in its meetings with Jeremy Hunt, the shadow minister leading the Bill’s debate for the Conservatives, and carried out subsequent correspondence with other members of that party and with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. 

BAPLA members derive their income through direct licensing. BAPLA strongly believes that direct licensing is the preferred model for the photographic industry. Many photography organisations, including BAPLA are sympathetic to the need of cultural heritage organisations’ to access OW’s for preservation and for “cultural” and “educational” use – i.e. for non-commercial purposes.  Proposed Orphan Works legislation went some way to stating what is an Orphan work and what constituted a diligent search.   Proper and transparent management are essential to preventing their abuse.

Every time something is scanned or taken from the web, it risks becoming an orphan work. Images appearing with no credits and stripped of their metadata are open to abuse and misuse and it is this major problem facing our profession that lies at the heart of the industry’s work to change and influence copyright legislation. Without safeguarding the ability for credits or rights information to stay with an image the problem of creating more orphan works is not being addressed.

Keen not to re-enact events in the USA where the OW issue has divided the photographic community, groups in the UK came together to agree a way forward. AOP, BAPLA, DACS, EPUK, NUJ, met to consider whether to oppose Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill or whether to influence the detail of legislation. All voted in favour of a joint statement, which the Royal Photographic Society, Getty and BIPP signed up to that presented the issues paramount to safeguard the industry’s interests.

If the spirit of the legislation was to allow access to cultural heritage, then our first step was to ensure that its limit was for non commercial and cultural use only.

We would like to make clear that under no circumstance has BAPLA attempted to steer the Clause 43 issue for its own ends. We totally refute this and refute suggestions of BAPLA’s intentions to run an Extended Collective Licensing scheme. Our motives and actions were to facilitate the broad church of interests on this issue and present a united front within one body at a moment in time when the Bill was moving rapidly to Parliament. Speed was of the essence at that moment in time and we were part of a larger group who chose to deal with the issues through negotiation.

Our position now is not to fragment or dissolve the coalition, but to formalise it under the British Photographic Council, to work together constructively and in unity of purpose with all interested parties to take this on now that the clause has been removed, which we welcome as we are on record as being against its content.

We certainly do not claim to lead the group but removal of the clause has created the potential for a united body to be heard, a body that can influence legislation which would not be detrimental to ALL of our interests.

John Toner is from the NUJ: “Clause 43 was a major issue for photographers, and much time and energy was put into stopping it. I congratulate all those who worked so hard to achieve this. It is understandable that there is still tension over what some people perceive to have happened over BAPLA’s role in the debate. There must, though, come a point where the recriminations cease. I would hope this is sooner, rather than later. We will have another battle to fight before long, and we will be stronger if we can present a united front. The British Photographic Council is best placed to provide that unity, and I would hope that both EPUK and BAPLA continue to be part of the organisation.”

Mike Holderness is Chair of the Creators’ Rights Alliance: “BAPLA played an extremely important part in the coalition to defend the rights of creators – all creators – especially through the organisation’s determination to represent its members by understanding the facts of the proposals, the market that creators operate in and the political context of the proposals.

Rosemary Wilman, President of The Royal Photographic Society, commented that collaboration within the photographic industry is essential and The Society will continue to be firmly involved in future collaboration.

The Orphan Works debate will be back and we recognise both the importance of the legislation and its pressing nature.

We look forward to a united coalition working together to ensure the future of our own industry, and its suppliers.

Best wishes,

Simon and the BAPLA Board

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

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