Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Great work from #DEbill

You've got to love this image - pass this around to raise some awareness about the risks of the Digital Economy Bill that's about to come before parliament.



I wouldn't be a supporter of this if I didn't credit the image to! Follow the link to find out how to contact your MP.

It's more important than ever to do this since there's an Early Day Motion to allow the bill to actually be debated properly but they need to raise support which means you need to contact your MP now.


Posted via web from New Adventures in i-Fi

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Digital Economy Bill - act now!

I’ve not posted about the Digital Economy Bill before but I’ve been meaning too; it’s a huge issue and I wanted to make sure I knew as much as possible about both sides of the argument before I jumped in with my two pence. Now, time’s running out to voice our opinions so here’s my post.

For those that don’t know, the Bill is being introduced in part to protect against copyright infringement but the measures and power which it grants are pretty scary as are the potential effects on content producers such as photographers, which is where I first started hearing about it.

Orphan Works

One element which has attracted a lot of concern is over Orphan Works. This is content where the copyright owner cannot be identified and the Bill gives new rights over the free non-commercial use of them, while at the same time granting licensing fees for their commercial use to the Government.

I can see where this idea started; there’s a lot of old documents and footage, etc who’s authors cannot be identified and it would be nice if the country had some formal way of using and licensing them. However the problem comes when you start to put it into practice with modern media, particularly with content produced by amateur and smaller professionals.

Image this scenario; we have a professional photographer who has invested time, effort and money into their equipment, their experience, their research and travel. This photographer creates an image which they intend to sell, as they are the sole copyright owner, in order to pay the bills, put food on the table... all the things you and I need that salary to do too.

Under current copyright law they have the right to sell their work as they see fit however they retain their copyright and it’s use is limited to those who have paid for a licence. Say they post their image to their website or to something like Flickr and someone likes it, downloads it and uses it; commercial or non-commercial use, this is still copyright infringement and the photographer has the right to pursue lost earnings and demand that it’s taken down.

I’m probably grossly over-simplifying things here but the scare story here is that all someone has to do is remove the metadata from the image (and some photo sharing sites do this automatically) and suddenly the photo is a ‘orphan’ and can be used freely for non-commercial use and licensed by the Government for commercial use. Not only does this deprive the photographer of their income but it also leaves open the possibility that the image is used to advertise or demonstrate something which the photographer or subject would not want to be associated with.

This particular discussion is raging over the photography forums and I’m sure it’s on the radar for other types of digital content producers.

Web Blocking

The Bill also proposes powers to cut off connections to persistent illegal filesharers  using a ‘three-strikes’ system and puts the onus on ISPs to monitor and police this.

Now, the Lib Dems and Conservatives have pushed through further changes which would give the high court rights to block an entire site if it’s alleged to be hosting copyright infringing material. The worry is that this now puts the balance of power in the hands of the big companies who could shutdown small sites and businesses with just the threat of action as many hosts will simply remove material without checking if the copyright case is legitimate.

@Documetally highlighted this latest amendment on his Posterous stream but there’s lots more info out there from the excellent Open Rights Group and other concerned bloggers such as SoloBassSteve have published their open letters to the Lords in an effort to encourage more people to do the same.

Personally I’m in an odd position on this; I’ve had a couple of abortive attempts at running a small business and would argue that there needs to be a check in place to stop the big boys throwing their weight around but on the other side I can understand that an ISP or other form of hosting or marketplace site (eBay or YouTube for example) needs to protect themselves from being sued over the infringements of their site users.

Like everything in the Bill, both the Orphan Works and Web Blocking clauses seem to have been written with media such as old written works in mind or music and film files being shared, without thinking through the potential impact on the huge raft of other content producers out there – for a Bill which is supposed to support the growth of the online economy it’s amazing how restrictive it really is.

The Fight Back

The Bill is being debated in the House of Lords at the moment before it goes to the Commons to be turned into law – the best thing we can do at this point is support the various online petitions (there are more if you search for them), join the facebook groups (again, there are more but let’s try to keep this coordinated!) and write to your local MP and to the Lords who are currently amending the Bill to voice your opinion!

Posted via email from New Adventures in i-Fi