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EU support US opposition to proposed UK copyright legislation

28 November 2012

Following an American initiative to protest to the UK government opposing proposed changes to UK copyright laws, the EU organisation Pyramide has followed suit.

Pyramide is an organisation representing groups of visual artists in the European Union and the text of its letter, sent jointly with Finnfoto, to Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, is shown below. The letter was copied to Lord Marland, House of Lords.

Gwen Thomas, AOP Business & Legal Affairs Director, initially contacted Pyramide to request EU-wide support against legislation which if passed, would allow so-called Orphan Works to be used commercially under an Extended Collective Licensing  scheme. Gwen comments “The AOP was delighted with the support received from America and even more so that this is echoed by our EU colleagues. We hope the recipients of the letter are sitting up and taking notice.”


EU support for US opposition to proposed UK copyright legislation

The letter sent to Dr Vince Cable and Lord Marland by Pyramide Europe and FINNFOTO:

November 22nd, 2012

Dr Vince Cable
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills,
House of Commons, London,
SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom

Dear Dr Cable
Pyramide Europe collectively represents the interests of creators and copyright owners of professional photography within the EU. Finnfoto represents all professional commercial photographers in Finland.

We respectfully submit this letter to express our deep concern with the provisions in Clause 68 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill affecting copyright owners in photography.

Among copyrighted works, photographs are far more vulnerable to loss or removal of information identifying the creator and copyright holder than other work groups. As photographers livelihoods are fundamentally dependent upon income earned by licensing the copyright underlying their works, professional photographers append routinely their identifying information of the creator to the metadata of the digital image file, prior to distribution and use. This metadata is often removed by automated processes or on intention in printing or networked uses.

In a globally networked marketplace, photographs and images published in any one country are instantly available to persons in all other countries. Despite advances in technology, there is no viable means by which any person or business can reliably and consistently ensure and endorse that photographs or illustrations of unknown origin are UK works, eligible for unlicensed or collectively licensed usage in the UK under the Bill.

We assert that the majority of photographs, visual works and illustrations deemed to be “Orphan works” in the UK, will be works created and owned by foreign persons and businesses.

Involuntary injection of these foreign works into a UK Extended Collective Licensing program or similar legalized infringement scheme with neither the knowledge or consent of the foreign copyright holders is reprehensible, contrary to the letter and spirits of UK and other European copyright laws, and unquestionably violates the provisions of Berne and TRIPS. In our opinion, by allowing commercial use, it also gives wrong signals on the interpretation and intentions of the EU Directive on Orphan Works.

If enacted, the Bill will permit foreign works to be used without the permission of or credit and compensate the rights holder. The prospect of unknown, ongoing unlicensed usage of foreign works in the UK will prevent any rights holder in any other country from licensing exclusive right to any party. Thus the value of the works during their copyrighted lifespan will be considerably devaluated.

By legalizing the unlicensed exploitation of copyrighted works created and owned by foreign rights holders, the Bill will conflict and in some cases prevent their normal exploitation of the works in their own country or market area, unreasonably prejudicing their legitimate interests.

Foreign copyright owner’s possibility to monitor Orphan works listings and notifications in the UK is difficult, time-consuming and costly and not always fair. The registry process of foreign copyright owners in the UK is not realistic and possible to all appropriate persons. Basically the UK has no legal right to determine the fees or other compensation in exchange for exploitation of their copyrights in the UK without laborious negotiations with representatives from every countries or individual copyright holders.

If the use of foreign works in the UK is permitted, we can anticipate international legal court cases and prolonged processes that are in no parties favour.

We do understand that a solution to the Orphans works dilemma must be identified and implemented, this Bill permitting legalized infringement of foreign works and injecting foreign works into a UK Extended Collective Licensing scheme creates a lot of problems. 

Because most of the Orphan Works are created on intention by removal of metadata from Digital Image files, we encourage the UK Government to build up an Act for making the removal of Metadata incriminated, thus creating less Orphan Works.

We encourage the UK Government to work with stakeholders and associations representing the copyright holders to redraft the Bill so as to protect and maintain the exclusive rights of foreign and UK copyright holders, in compliance with Berne, TRIPS and the spirit of Copyright legislation around the world.

Respectably Submitted

Boris Fagerström
President, Pyramide Europe

Mikko Säteri
Executive director, FINNFOTO

cc Lord Marland
House of Lords
London SW1A OPW
United Kingdom

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