In the late hours of 07 April 2010, the House of Commons agreed to pass the Digital Economy Bill without its controversial Clause 43. This has been widely viewed as a great victory for photographers and it comes after five months of meetings and negotiations between different representative organisations and the IPO, but also thanks to a high-profile five-week campaign launched by independent photographers under the Stop43 campaign .
If Clause 43 had been passed, it would have given the Secretary of State the power to grant authorisation to a third-party organisation to license specific orphan works. Stop43 clarifies:
"Until now, if someone found one of your photographs and wanted to use it commercially, they couldn't without first asking you,". Clause 43 of the bill changes all that by allowing the use of 'Orphan Works', i.e. photographs, illustrations and other artworks whose owners cannot be found.
Clause 43 also says that if someone finds your photograph, wants to use it and decides that they can't trace you, they can do whatever they like with it after paying an arbitrary fee to a UK Government-appointed 'licensing body'. You'll never know unless you happen to find it being used in this way, in which case you might be able to claim some money."
Following the successful stripping of Clause 43, the Stop43 campaign group has pledged to continue its “fight” to represent photographers’ interests.
Photographers will now have to wait until after the next elections to know what the IPO has planned for the future of copyright, after it suffered a strong defeat at the hands of photographers. Already, if elected, the Conservatives have hinted at introducing copyright reform, 22 years after the Copyright, Design and Patents Act was promulgated in the UK.
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