Photographers urge action over copyright ‘outrage’

May 12, 2008

UK photographers have been urged to lobby the government over what is seen as a worldwide copyright threat imposed by proposed legislation in the United States.

Photographers fear that the Orphan Works bill ? currently being advanced through the legislature of the US government ? would make it much simpler for images to be used, legally, without the consent of the copyright owner.

The term ?orphan works? refers to copyrighted materials whose owner cannot be identified and traced.

To help prevent someone using a photographer’s image without due credit, the copyright holder would first need to have registered their details and contact information on a database, to be set up by the US Copyright Office.

?What?s worse, this means that, according to US law, all work from anywhere in the world will be fair game unless it is registered in one of these non-existent registries,? warns photography rights activist Pete Jenkins.

If, at a later date, the copyright owner is found, it is feared that the image user would be exempt from paying statutory damages and legal fees if they are deemed to have acted in good faith.

Cornwall-based photographer Bob Croxford wrote in a recent online forum: ?This legislation means that any images anywhere in the world can be stolen by American businesses, publications, film makers and so on with impunity. All they need do, if caught, is pay what they think is a reasonable fee.?

Jenkins describes the bill as the ?biggest outrage? to have ever hit copyright. ?And, of course, this is totally retrospective, so all the thousands of images out there need to be registered in the US?,? he added.

However, the American Society of Media Photographers has urged photographers to stop sending letters of protest about the bill to the US Congress. Instead, it seems keen to work with legislators to add concessions for photographers.

Jenkins has urged UK photographers to lobby their MPs and register their views with the government at

He also wants the National Union of Journalists to encourage similar action.

To read more on how US photographers have reacted to the bill see HERE

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