Thursday, 3 December 2009

A photographer's view of the Digital Economy Bill

Following this morning's post on the Digital Economy Bill I came across two sites of interest if you want to follow it's progress...   The first is a twitter stream on the bill - clearly a good spot to head for for up to date comment.

The second is Pro-imaging - a site 'supporting professional image creators' who are following the bill's progress because online intellectual property is a clearly of interest for people making a living from photography.  Apart from some useful links on submitting comments and following the bill's progress in the house they raise some points on what they see the bill misses. 

The first is a proposal to add compulsory school education in Intellectual Property...  I understand where they are coming from - but it's something I personally am against.  Firstly if it's not already mandated after two hundred years of copyright it is hard to see it as a 'must have' - and secondly it's a topic that could easily turn into indoctrination rather than education. That's not to say that I don't think there is value in school students debating intellectual property issues - but since principles of intellectual property have a clear political dimension we should be very wary of mandating what students should be taught to believe..

The second though I do support - an artists right to attribution - in principle at least.  Clearly passing someone else's work off as your own is fraud and shouldn't be condoned.   On the other hand their proposal of making it an offence to tamper with metadata in a file...... sounds like a big sledgehammer for a pretty small nut.  I'm not sure it's practical  - how would you prove who made changes to the meta data on a file? And I have no idea what is lodged as meta data if I edit or crop a file and then save it. (When does it become a secondary work?).   If I change format and the meta data is not transferred is that an offence.... Nya. Not such a great idea......

Piratpartiet and The Pirate Party -  Working for copyright reform.


Flash said...

I'm a member of Pro-Imaging. Thanks for picking up on some of our concerns. Regarding education we do not see as a means of indoctrination.

It would be a means of making school leavers 'worldly wise' and to have an understanding that as individuals have rights that are valuable, and how to protect them. At the moment we have naive students leaving the education system, some to make a career in one of the arts, all easy prey to greedy corporate giants.

Regarding metadata there are many organisations, such as online social media sites, stripping metadata as a matter of course creating vast volumes of orphan images. This is a threat to the viability of photography as a profession since these orphan images can easily be used with impunity.

Photographers are independent artists, unlike musicians we do not assign our rights to others, we own and manage our own rights. While we have some sympathy with the public over the behaviour of the giants in the music industry, our concern is that the public have no care nor understanding of the plight of independent artists.

That's not the public's fault, it is the governments for not having IP as a subject that is taught alongside the arts. There is no point in being a great artist if you have no idea how to make a living from your rights.

Thanks for giving some air time to these concerns.

Gordon C Harrison

Edward E said...

@Flash. Thanks for the comment.
I wasn't aware that there was 'industrial scale' stripping of meta data going on (is there more info available on that?). My initial reaction though is that that's still a very hard thing to fix with legislation. I see other things generic in photography on the web that will make it increasingly hard to make a living from pictures. (I will post on it when I find the time..)
The issues you raise on education I'd expect to be in courses on photography, art, music and media. ..but I don't think that should be legally mandated for everyone. I trust teachers and educators over politicians to decide what is the right content for students.
On 'greedy corporations' it sounds like you have a lot in common with other artists - e.g. the Features Artist Coalition. :-)