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The Association of Photographers' Gwen Thomas on Moral Rights

Gwen Thomas, the Association of Photographers’ Legal & Business Director, last month gave an address to SABIP, the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property policy. This was the same meeting addressed by David Lammy, the former Minister of State (Higher Education and Intellectual Property), Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who during his speech apparently announced that UK creatives already enjoy inalienable moral rights (listen at 1’ 18” from the start).

David Lammy has a Master’s Degree in Law from Harvard University.

Fortunately, Gwen knows her stuff rather more soundly than that and has written up her speech for an article in this month’s IMAGE magazine. The AoP have posted it on their website, and it is well worth reading and reflecting upon. It is especially recommended to the Intellectual Property Office and the Publishers’ Association. Some extracts:

“Moral Rights are, of course, important to all creators - but the Integrity and Attribution right are of particular importance to photographers. Indeed, any commercial visual artist, such as illustrators, value moral rights to protect their integrity and enhance their reputation.”

“The Integrity right is vital to photographers as images are easily manipulated. To be published, every image will go through a computer system after leaving the photographer - whether they’re delivered digitally or in analogue form.”

“Moral Rights currently have no monetary value, no teeth, so any discovery of a lack of credit (where asserted) or an image treated in a derogatory way, means the photographer has to prove a loss of income – as a freelancer this is incredibly difficult. How do you show a commissioner was trying to find you, because you weren’t credited, to give you a job or no longer wants to use you because they think the photography is no longer special or of a good enough quality. An injunction at this point is useless as the damage is already done, and monetary damages unquantifiable.”

“The lack of reward and recognition will diminish the incentive to create new works, which will, in turn, diminish the UK’s creative industry.”

Gwen is one of the few professional administrators to have emerged from the Digital Economy Bill Clause 43 fiasco with her reputation and integrity intact.