Photo copyright: share and share alike?

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Copyright notice courtesy of Wikipedia

 With the recent passage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act in the UK parliament, photographers will lose rights to control the exploitation of their images, if they are considered to be “orphans” lacking identifying information.

In practice, though, this means that anyone who uploads images to popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook could lose the rights to those images, as the metadata is routinely stripped from images when they are uploaded. Many will not care, but what if your image were used for a commercial ad, with no recompense to you? Or if it were used for a cause with which you disagree?

Users who wish to control their images would need to register with an online registry, but it is not clear when this will be available or if it will cost money.

Writing to Chancellor George Osborne, photographer David Bailey expressed his opposition to the bill: “[o] ur government refuses to give us the right to our names by our pictures (Moral rights). So now commercial organisations will be allowed to make money from our “orphans”, but not us, the creators. This legislation should never have been even considered without first giving us our moral rights, and is contrary to our rights under the Berne Convention. Why the rush?”

Bailey goes on to the cite the Copyright Hub scheme, which would allow users to find rights holders for photos, as something that should have been in place before this bill, which is now law.

Sharing has been a byword of social media, but the idea that commercial interests could hijack users’ images may cause some to think twice about being quite so generous.

What do you think? Will you still be sharing your images online? Or do you want them to be protected?

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