The Government should legalise the use of images where the copyright owner cannot be traced, recommends a review of the intellectual property system.
Announced last week, The Hargreaves Report suggests ways copyright could be improved to boost the UK?s ?innovation and growth?.
The report – Digital Opportunity: A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth – tackles the controversial issue of ‘orphan works’, a term that refers to copyrighted materials, the owner of which cannot be identified or traced.
Among key recommendations is the creation of a ?Digital Copyright Exchange? to be headed by a government-appointed ?senior figure? and introduced by the end of next year.
The review, led by Professor Ian Hargreaves, describes the Digital Copyright Exchange as a ?digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold, a sort of online copyright shop?.
On orphan works the review states: ?The Government should legislate to enable licensing of orphan works. This should establish extended collective licensing for mass licensing of orphan works, and a clearance procedure for the use of individual works.?
It adds: ?In both cases, a work should only be treated as an orphan if it cannot be found by search of the databases involved in the proposed Digital Copyright Exchange.?
However, image rights campaign group Stop43 fears that a Digital Copyright Exchange will lead to a ?two-tier? copyright system.
Responding to the six-month review, a Stop43 spokesman said that a Digital Copyright Exchange would ?foster the idea that any intellectual property not registered can be assumed to be treated as orphan??
The Association of Photographers (AoP) also voiced disappointment, saying that the idea for a Digital Copyright Exchange is ?scant on detail and potentially fraught with problems?.
The AoP said it wants an upcoming EU directive to allow orphan works to be used only on a ?non-commercial, cultural-use basis?.
While it welcomed the idea of a Digital Copyright Exchange, the Confederation of British Industry?s chief policy director Katja Hall said: ?Robust copyright protection should be available to all and preferential enforcement action for material registered on the Digital Copyright Exchange must be avoided.
?Instead, the Exchange should be a collaboration between the content creators and the technology sector.?
The AoP had also hoped the report would propose a strengthening of moral rights legislation.
AoP executive director Gwen Thomas said: ?To ignore the obvious need for strengthening of existing moral rights to give creators an automatic, unwaiveable right to a credit – before introducing another system to address orphan works – is remiss at best.?
Announcing his report on 18 May, Hargreaves said: ?In recent years, the UK has failed to make the changes needed to modernise copyright law, for which we will pay an increasing economic price as we make our way into the third decade of the commercial internet.?
The review was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last year.