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Has Instagram done us a favour?

19 December 2012

As well as the threat inherent in the rather hamfisted Instagram rights grab, the company may have inadvertently done AOP members a favour by putting image copyright firmly on the Christmas dinner party agenda.

When you're talking Instagram to friends, family and contacts over the mulled wine do take the opportunity to make the point of the wider copyright issues at stake for all professional photographers. Following are AOP member and Stop43 co-founder Paul Ellis' comments on the key points to drive home.

Copyright, automatically granted to creators by Berne Convention, isn't just a property right: as the Court of Justice of the European Union puts it, a copyright work is also ‘the author’s own intellectual creation reflecting his personality’. It represents its creator. This is why copyright includes ‘moral rights’ and why your copyright is also your human right, as is your right ‘not to be arbitrarily deprived of your property’.

On the Internet, if it's free, its because you are the product.

'Free' Internet services have to make money somehow. Advertising revenue is clearly not enough, so claiming rights to sell uploaded works is the obvious next step for companies such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest, and don't forget this is exactly what Google tried to do with its Google Books Settlement. As you might expect, there was a huge outcry once the public understood what was going to happen to their uploaded pictures, which caused Instagram rapidly to back down.

Of course, 'orphan works' and 'Extended Collective Licensing' schemes, currently being legislated for in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, will have exactly the same effect on the public's copyright works as Instagram's rights grab: they will grant organisations you've never heard of the right to sell your property without your knowledge, permission, or payment to you, and all in the name of 'growth', which is strange; most economists agree that growth comes from enabling people to trade their property, not from confiscating it from them.

Perhaps there would be a similar outcry if the public knew the Government intends to confiscate their property, just like Instagram tried to?

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