International Media & Archive Consortium warns of Judicial Review over UK Government plans to weaken copyright
A consortium of the world’s largest news agencies, commercial licensing companies and commercial audiovisual archives has today called on the UK Government to rethink its plans to weaken UK copyright law and its use of secondary legislation. The Government’s proposals are being implemented through the Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords.
Controversially, the Government proposes to make wholesale changes to UK copyright law via secondary legislation and without the benefit of Parliamentary scrutiny, which includes time for public review and comment. The consortium has delivered a Letter Before Claim to Business Secretary, Vince Cable, which is the first step in the process of initiating a Judicial Review - a formal legal challenge to the Government’s planned legislation and the manner in which it proposes to introduce it.
The consortium includes The Associated Press, Getty Images, Reuters, British Pathé, The Press Association, and the Federation of Commercial and Audiovisual Libraries, who operate advanced digital licensing businesses of content on all formats. The consortium believes that the economic growth arguments originally put forward to justify the Government’s proposals are without basis and has challenged the Government’s plans to introduce its proposed changes through so-called ‘Henry VIII clauses’ - secondary legislation which is not subject to the full scrutiny of Parliament, which includes visibility to the public.
A coalition of more than 70 creative industries organisations has described the proposals as premature, ill-thought-out and constitutionally improper.
This action follows on the heels of:
- the comprehensive demolition of the economic case for the proposed measures;
- unprecedented creative industries opposition to the proposed measures;
- warnings from foreign rights owners that the proposed measures will infringe their rights and breach the UK’s international obligations;
- the chaos of three different Ministers in charge of the Intellectual Property Office within four months;
- an All-Party Parliamentary report which found the Intellectual Property Office lacks effective political oversight and control;
- an inquiry into support for the the creative economy and the impact on the creative industries of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, and the Government’s Response to it;
- the widely reported remarks made by Steve Hilton, former special advisor to the Prime Minister, that 'British bureaucracy masters the politicians’;
- and of course the similar, failed attempt by Instagram to grab its contributors’ property, which has cost it half of its users.
Download the full Press Release
In an unprecedented display of industry solidarity, over 70 organisations representing photographers, authors and other creators and rights owners have signed a briefing paper objecting to UK Government plans fundamentally to change copyright legislation and confiscate their property, rights and potential income.
The document, drafted by Serena Tierney, Head of Intellectual Property at Bircham Dyson Bell, is the product of a joint effort in which Stop43 participated. It has been sent to Peers participating in the Grand Committee Stage of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, during which these proposed measures will be debated, and was released to the public on Friday 11 January 2013. Ms. Tierney’s covering letter reads:
11 January 2013
Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Bill (ERRB): briefing for Grand Committee session Wednesday 16th January 2013
On behalf of an exceptionally wide range of copyright-dependent businesses, I attach a copy of a briefing note that we have prepared to inform peers for the debate in Grand Committee on Part 6 and Schedule 21 of the ERRB.
The note has been signed by 73 organisations and individuals. These range from major news-gatherers including ITN, Reuters and the Press Association to individual photographers and illustrators. They include some of our most historically-significant audiovisual and picture archives such as British Pathé, the Tate, Mary Evans Picture Library and the Scott Polar Institute. Organisations representing illustrators, journalists, photographers, authors and cartoonists have signed it. So have bodies representing foreign copyright-owners whose works are used in the UK. This Bill is causing consternation amongst creators from the US to New Zealand.
In my experience, it is unprecedented for businesses of such differing scales and across many creative disciplines to speak with one voice in this way.
The explanation is that the ERRB provisions on orphan works and extended collective licensing will take away rights from creators upon which they depend to make a living. These provisions are premature, ill-thought-out and (as has been recognised by the Delegated Powers Standing Committee), constitutionally improper.
If you have the appetite to see the impact on one set of individual creators, photographers, I recommend this Guardian article and the comments below it.
The government reiterates its intention to promote growth in the UK economy through its support for the creative industries. When this range of creative industries are so concerned by the damage to them if the current ERRB passes into legislation that intention must be seriously under threat.
The attached note was prepared on the basis of the text of the ERRB as at Second Reading. The government has this morning proposed some amendments following the recommendation of the Delegated Powers Standing Committee that clause 67 be withdrawn. The withdrawal of the proposal to provide the power to remove copyright protection from anonymous and pseudonymous works is welcomed as is the recognition that pre-1989 unpublished works should continue to be protected in accordance with the EU Directive.
Once it knows what is happening, the general public takes a dim view of attempts to confiscate its property and rights. Recently Instagram decided to grant itself the right to sell images uploaded to its site. The resultant public outcry was huge, and despite rapidly backing down, as a consequence of its greedy and ill-judged move Instagram has lost nearly half of its subscribers.
In 2010 Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill attempted a similar property grab. It was defeated by concerted public opposition led by photographers.
Parliamentarians: these measures are a vote-loser.