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During yesterday’s debate (Tuesday) on the Digital Economy Bill, Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff made clear his total opposition to the provisions of Clause 43 the Bill that would have damaged the livelihoods of photographers. It has now been decided that the Clause will not be included in the final Act.
He was responding to lobbying from Worcestershire photographers and others who were deeply concerned about the provisions on so-called “Orphan Works”. This happens to photographs when the data associated with the image is accidentally or deliberately deleted, making it possible for someone who wants to use the image to claim that he couldn’t identify the copyright owner and so not pay the proper royalty for its use – or even get permission to use it at all.

It has been confirmed to Peter today by members of the Official Opposition that the government has accepted it must reluctantly agree to the deletion of Clause 43 as part of the price for allowing the rest of the Bill to get on to the statute book before the imminent election.

Peter said,

“It is a victory won by backbenchers as a result of pressure from constituents. It shows that MPs do listen and that Parliament does work.”

During his remarks in the Second Reading of the Bill, Peter said,

“Many photographers rely on the exploitation of the intellectual property rights that flow from their work. As the campaign group to stop clause 43 points out, the clause says that

"if someone finds your photograph, wants to use it and decides that they can't trace you, they can do whatever they like with it after paying an arbitrary fee to a UK Government-appointed 'licensing body'. You'll never know unless you happen to find it being used in this way".

“We have seen graphic examples in our post and e-mail of images being used in ways never before seen. Those practices have resulted in the people who took the photographs losing money.”

He also explained that the controversial “Ashes to Ashes” Labour election poster and its Conservative riposte showed how quickly people could exploit such images without permission or payment of royalty when he quoted from a photographer’s blog on the issue,

“The poster manages to break just about every rule in the intellectual property handbook, and with entirely predictable results. Glenister has apparently said he is unhappy about the use of his image for political purposes. Doubtless lawyers for German car maker Audi will be interested in how one of their products came to be used to promote a British political party. And BBC chiefs are reportedly 'furious' at the misuse: 'We would never have given permission for any political use of one of our programmes', one senior executive is reported as saying.”

Earlier in his speech, Peter had expressed profound concern about the way this important legislation was being handled;

“I cannot overestimate the importance of the Bill-or, at least, of the things that it deals with-to the future of the British economy, society and culture. The internet has already transformed our lives-even now, as I speak, I see hon. Members tweeting and taking text messages. I welcome that, but the transformation has only just begun, and getting this right is hugely important.

“Nevertheless, this is the most profoundly unsatisfactory constitutional process I have engaged with in my 18 years in the House. In his opening remarks the Secretary of State promised my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) that he would write up a list of precedents, but I do not believe-I could be proved wrong-that there is a single precedent for giving a major and controversial Bill a Second Reading once a general election has been announced. It is a scandal that the House is being asked to agree that tonight.”


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