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BBC, big business leer creepily at orphan works

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Mandybill 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 who are supposed to benefit from the unique powers it confers are special parties: copyright libraries, such as the British Library. These are non-commercial operations. Clause 43 was never intended act as a leg-up for tight-fisted publishers.

But here they are.

As we noted recently, Clause 43 gives new powers to use an image for which the owner can't be found. And the prospective user doesn't really have to try too hard. Effectively the state "nationalises" orphans and gives a free collective licence to anyone who asks.

The Copyright Alliance has noted that the BBC has been lobbying hard along with two publishers groups (The Publishers Association and The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers), two collective licensing agencies (The Copyright Licensing Agency and the Educational Recording Agency) and the BFI are involved.

Photographers' website Copyright Action, which revealed the lobbying, notes:

"Government has wandered a long way from assisting the British Library et al, to use orphaned and abandoned work for the public interest - a project we have never opposed."

"We are instead facing wholesale changes to our copyright that Government has been persuaded will assist these 'creative industries; to make more profit, not from creating more or creating better, but by enabling yet more brute power over the individuals and small companies who actually create the work they all depend upon."

It shows how the anti-copyright lobby - which trades under the misleading banner of "digital rights" and insists that it's fighting copyright middlemen - ends up strengthening those entrenched interests at the expense of the creator. Creators are collateral damage in the war against The Man.

Photographers have an excellent resource to rally against the clause: Stop 43. The deadline to take action against this landgrab is April 6.®

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