back to article BBC, big business leer creepily at orphan works

Big publishers and the BBC have come out to lobby for the controversial Clause 43, that part of the Mandybill that strips photographers of their historical rights. Is that surprising? It should be, because Clause 43 is the section that deals with 'orphan works' - and according to the Business department BIS, the only people …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. John Lilburne


    The freetards have always been the useful tools of big media companies.

    Find any libertarian and there will be a capitalist robber baron or shark lawyer hiding in the shadows.

  2. Christopher Rogers

    The ultimate reason to vote Tory...

    Is to get Mandleson out of Government. Seriously. He has as much of a hand in the destruction of this country as Satan Blair himself.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ....he did an interview for the Times last year and when they asked him if he'd work for the incoming Tory government, he said "......of course, it wouldn’t be serving the government, it would be serving the country”

      1. Christopher Rogers


        AC I don't see your arguement. He'd work for the Tories (if the price was right) but the digital economy bill has essentially proved the man to be very dangerous.

        "it wouldn’t be serving the government, it would be serving the country" - the words of a self serving snake.

  3. Ian 62

    Watermark it...with paint!

    Here's a thought. If its about recording who took the image. Professional photographer types should start putting a nice ugly splash across the middle of the picture.


    Sell those to big business cheaply, as no one can doubt who took it for years to come.

    If big business want a nice clean high quality version. They can buy the image and its rights for LOTS of money. Let them shoot themselves in the foot.

  4. j-g-faustus

    Fair enough

    Isn't it fair enough that images (or other works) where you can't find the copyright holder falls in the public domain?

    I think this is a good thing, under a few conditions:

    * orphan works go to the public domain, not any particular publisher

    * content creators need some place where they can register their claim

    * content users need a way to search for copyright holders

    I imagine a central registry, and a search where you can upload an image and find whether it is copyrighted, could do the trick. The search could use some sort of pattern matching so simple cropping, color adjustments etc. would still identify it as the same image.

    Having a simple, reliable way to tell whether a work is copyrighted or not would be good not just for big publishers, but also for the myriad of small actors like bloggers.

    I suppose the primary challenge would be fending off "land grabbers" that would claim copyright on every image they can find, on the assumption that the majority of those claims would not be contested.

    Still, without a mechanism to make orphan works available, I guess 90-95% of all images and some smaller percentage of texts can never be used by anyone because the copyright holder cannot be identified.

    Where is the gain in that?

    1. Haku

      Have you seen this site?

    2. John Lilburne

      Availablity does not mean OK to reuse

      Lots of people take photos of family events, their kids, holiday views etc and post them on the internet. Occasionally, they take an image as good as any professional, but just because they haven't digitally watermarked it or aren't actively hawking it about for money, doesn't give anyone the right to use that image in some advert, book, poster, website selling hotel rooms, or for any other commercial exploitation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        true but..

        ..those would not be orphan works. Where the person creating anything can be identified they automatically hold copyright over that work unless they specifically give up that right. Putting something into the public domain does not mean you give up the copyright, it just becomes almost impossible to obtain any reward for it. As you say, at the moment other people have no right to exploit such work, whether this bill changes that fact or not remains to be tested but it seems like poorly thought out law to me.

        1. Dazed and Confused

          Re: AC true but...

          They wouldn't be orphaned, but...

          There is this great picture on such and such a page which we'd like to use. We know who's page it is so we guess they own it.... Damn we'll have to pay them.

          No hang on, if I go down to the internet cafe down the road and copy it to another page then you can ask me if I know who's it is and I can say sorry can't remember saw it, liked it used it on my page.

          Ah! so you mean it's orphaned then.

          Yeah, guess it must be.

          I wonder how long before freetards are using this as a get out of jail free card.

          You have been accused of ripping off a copy of the new XYZ album,

          Nah M'lord, I erd it on some website and they couldn't remember where it came from 'onest so I just copied it I did - It's orphan it is. Oo's XYZ, never eard of them, only ever listen to orphan works me, never heard of no groups no not none.

          Bet it works for big business stealing from the little guy. Bet the little guys still getr screwed by big business.

          1. strangefish

            yes indeed..

            ...but 'I don't know where it comes from' isn't a legal defence and doesn't change the legal standing of the item concerned, it just means you don't care if you stole it and are hopeful the owner doesn't chase you for compensation if your use of it resulted in financial gain. People don't seem to have a very clear understanding of the term orphan work. Orphan does not mean you don't know who owns it, it means no owner can be traced. If the owner can be traced or comes forward it is no longer orphan and it is always the user's responsibility to check it. This is why large numbers of people (used to) spend a great deal of time chasing what they call clearance on everything you see in films and on tv and why images on people's T-shirt images are often pixellated out...they couldn't locate the person needed to clear the image for broadcast but they know damn well somebody owns the rights to it.

            1. John Lilburne

              It depends on ...

              ... what the law considered a proper attempt to locate the copyright owner.

              There are 1,000,000s of photos on flickr where the person with the copyright hasn't been on flickr for years. They may even have lost access to their email and yahoo account details. And besides since when does one have to respond to some publishers usage request?

              I've seen some of the cheeky bastards emails before 'We'd like to use X but have no money to pay you. If you don't respond by next week we'll take it as permission."

  5. Jimmy Floyd

    Help me understand

    I'm curious, Andrew. A lot of your articles have a dig at the BBC for one reason or another (some justifiably so; others not so much) , and I'd really like to know why you have such a dislike for the Beeb?

    1. Sean Timarco Baggaley
      Thumb Up

      He's a journo.

      Pity the journo, for they aren't merely born cynical, but also have even more cynicism thrust upon them during life.

      Their role is to rock the boat. To carp. To criticise and point out What's Really Happening. (Well, *effective* journos do, anyway. Most are more than content to suck corporate teat.) Their place in society is to be the Cassandra, endlessly shouting "That's SHIT that is!" while being ignored by everyone else until it's too late.

      (People often accuse others of being "Cassandras", but conveniently forget how that particular story ends: Cassandra was proved *right*.)

      Journos are there to ask questions of the establishment, of the élite, and to hold them a standard higher than they have set for themselves, but which the public—who pay for them—have a right to demand.

      If you took a shirt out of the washing machine and discovered many stains still upon it, would you go, "Oh well! At least *those* bits are clean! It's good enough!"? (If you do, it's probably a safe bet you work in IT. This attitude explains a lot about computers today.)

      It is not the job of a journo to acknowledge that which is being done right—that's called "advertising". But it *is* correct for a journo to highlight that which is wrong.

      The BBC gets a lot of things right, but it still has many, many flaws.

      Finally, journos are still (technically) human. Sometimes, they make mistakes. Nobody ever likes to admit this. The last umpteen governments this nation has had routinely got away with never admitting to failure or mistakes—even to the point of getting re-elected. So it's the height of hypocrisy to demand grovelling apologies from the occasional journo.

      1. Jimmy Floyd

        Why the BBC?

        I agree wholeheartedly, and blessed are the journos - for without their cynicism 'news' might simply mean press releases from companies recycled as articles (can I hear a "Metro"?).

        No, I simply point out that Orlowski seems to have particular disdain for the BBC. Look back through his contributions and there is a share of legitimate criticism (as in this story), some heavy ranting (IMHO, natch), and quite a few brief but disparaging remarks in articles that have little or nothing to do with the Beeb.

        So I'm just wondering why the BBC in particular, way more than any other subject, without actually admitting he simply dislikes the thing? Might be worth an article, that...

        1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

          Why the BBC?

          Because the BBC as most of us knew it died kicking and screaming in the mid-90s.

          When the Tories foisted John Birt on the BBC, he tore it apart. His "Producer Choice" concept resulted in almost everyone with any talent at the Corporation leaving in droves, so that they could then hire back their services—as consultants, freelancers, sub-contractors and even entire production companies—at much higher cost. At the same time, that modern scourge of society descended in hordes upon the ailing Beeb: middle managers. Suddenly, instead of paying for quality TV, the taxpayer was being forced to pay for "Creativity & Gender Workshops" and all that bullshit.

          The BBC became little more than a shell, and has remained such ever since. That it gets anything done *at all* today is a miracle of sheer bloodymindedness.

          "Auntie Beeb" died circa. 1994. What we see today is a zombie, an undead BBC, staggering about blindly like a headless chicken, only faintly aware that the final axe is looming somewhere nearby.

          The BBC is living on borrowed time. It knows it too. If it's very lucky, it'll survive the next Charter renewal process, but not the one after that. "Broadcasting" is increasingly an anachronism; there is no future in it. Only a past.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            @Sean Timarco Baggaley

            ""Broadcasting" is increasingly an anachronism; there is no future in it. Only a past."

            Perhaps you would care to elaborate? Do you think all those thousands of TV and radio stations around the globe are suddenly going to stop "broadcasting"? If so, why?

            ...cos it smells like a load of bull to me.

  6. hahnchen

    So what happens to orphan works right now?

    From what I gather, right now, they're just a black hole.

    If orphan works were granted to the British Library, what then? Would Crown copyright apply?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I can't wait to vote this lot out

    The argument that it's fair game to re-use (and profit from) images as long as the copyright owner cannot be established is just plain lazy. If you can't determine the owner of an image you shouldn't use it.

    The fact that Mandy's behind this doesn't surprise me. But I'm amazed that the BBC are lobbying for this, wanting to be able to use any images that can't be attributed to a copyright holder whenever they want. They seem to be going to great lengths to protect "their" content (that we paid to produce) - maybe they should respect the content of other companies and individuals in the same way.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you can't trace the author, just wait for 180 years.

    The author might have been just 12 years old and might have lived to 122, like that French woman, but the copyright expires 70 years after the author's death. Unless they extend it. Again.

  9. A J Stiles

    What's the problem?

    Just publish and wait. If someone has a legitimate claim on the copyright, they'll appear out of the woodwork ready to sue you. If you set aside a sum of money based on a reasonable estimation of how much you think you might potentially owe in royalties, it will even count in your favour in court.

    1. John Lilburne

      Here is the problem.

      Last month I was asked if a photo could be used in an upcoming American medical textbook, last week for reuse in an American book on Evolution. In both cases had they not asked would I have known? Almost certainly not.

      The chances of a copyright owner actually catching some one nicking their work is remote. Perhaps one in 100 will actually find out. If all you have to do when caught is pay up what you would have had to have paid if you'd been honest upfront you still get to pocket saving of the other 99 reuses where you didn't get caught. That is why the US system has a deterrent aspect for registered works which is generally much high than the cost of actually licensing. It provides an incentive to keep people honest. Something I believe the US is keen on being adopted in the EU too.

  10. Jacqui

    BBC steals photohra[hs

    The BBC has a rep for filtching images from the net and not bothering to contact the owner.

    The most recent visible case was when they used a brum skyline as a studio backdrop.

    When the owner contacted aunty they eventually offered 100UKP. Luckily he knew pro rates start at 3K/image *USAGE* and asked for the image to be removed and for compensation for the two times they had used his image without permission. Only when he started legal letters/proceedings did they give him (part of?) what he was asking for. FWICR the BBC NEVER AGREED THEY WOULD STOP USING HIS IMAGE.

    So watermark all decent images other wise the BBC and other thieves will nick them.


    1. SirTainleyBarking

      They have form for this sort of thing

      On BBC news website you'll often see a plea for people who witnessed a breaking story to email in footage or pictures.

      Look at the T&C's .... The BBC claim the right to use your footage in perpetuity, and licence it to other news organisations.

      Fekkem. I got wise to this sort of scam back in the 80's. As a keen amateur photog, I often saw competitions in magazines. T&C's tended to be similar, and copytheft assumed for every entry.

      These days, the legitimate competitions are much better. Typically the competition operator will only want the rights to licence winning pictures for limited use FOC. The Copyright owner is more than able to licence anywhere else they choose.

  11. John A Blackley


    This shower crafting a bill through which the little guy gets it in the rear? Shocked! Shocked and horrified!

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Invention vs creation

    The copyright when invented used to be same protection time for inventions and creative work. Since then it has differentied to a level where a creative work gets a lifetime + 50-90 years, depending on country, after death while inventions have stayed at same level for a hundred years.

    Theres something screwy with a society that rewards the inventor of penicilium for 20 years but the picture of the same mold gets reward for the lifetime + 50-90 years after death.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Exactly the opposite reaction as compared to the music industry, would'nt you say?

  14. Roger Heathcote 1

    ZOMG Since when did AO permit the plebs to comment on his stories?

    I'm impressed Andrew (not with your writing or opinion naturally) but allowing the great unwashed to have their say is surely a great step forward. Well done.

    On the stop 34 thing... meh. Their campaign against illegal use of images uses those self same images, I wonder if they have taken the trouble or cost to license them? Maybe they would argue "fair use" as it's political comment oh, but, those are political posters they are getting upset about so that would be hypocritical.

    Collating orphan works in one place might make it easier for copyright holders to notice their imagery has been appropriated and reassert their rights anyway, esp if they implement something akin to tineye for searching.

    If you are someone who cares deeply about your copyright I think it's quite reasonable that you a) Be very mindful of who you give master quality copies to b) Make sure you watermark any works you distribute c) Make sure you are easily contactable and include contact info in any digial files metadata. That way no one could accuse you of abandoning anything and your stuff won't be incorporated into any such library until well after your death.

    It's also always worth bearing in mind that free imagery is very useful to a society & copyright terms have already been extended IMHO beyond what is reasonable, this might go someway to redressing that. The argument that society enforces copyright to give authors an incentive to create new work doesn't hold much water when you consider it is applied up to 9 decades after they are dead. I personally don't rate Orwells post 1950 output.

    As for organizations like the beeb being in favour of this let's not forget businesses are probably the most vital component of modern society - bad things happen when things go badly for them as we have seen of late - so I'm quite happy for them to gain some advantage from otherwise dormant orphan works. I'm against much of the DE bill but this part would benefit business, enrich society and by putting their works back into circulation might even reconnect derelict rights holders with their works and thereby enable them to profit from them.

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: ZOMG Since when did AO permit the plebs to comment on his stories?

      The "Great Unwashed" have always had their say, Roger. Readers have never been shy about emailing me for my Mailbag.

      Some just prefer to do so untraceably and anonymously via a web form - a weird form of communication. But I try and make everyone happy.

      From your comments it's obvious you haven't understood the Clause. I think you need to read it. A good start is get the number right. It's 43, not 34.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like