Sunday, March 28, 2010

Orphan works: legalizing wholesale stealing of your online images

Malibu Sunset, originally uploaded by Jeff Sullivan.

Coming soon to a country near you:

UK Gov nationalises orphans and bans non-consensual photography in public

"The quaint notion that the author alone has prime and inalienable rights over his/her own work, must be able to restrict usage, negotiate a fee, prevent usage they consider immoral or distasteful, or assert their moral right to attribution, is about to pass into history"

Not only will companies be able to use your photso in virtually any way they want, but there will apparently be no penalty for a company intentionally setting up the conditions that will qualify your photos as orphan works:

" The Bill contains no deterrent to the creation of orphans, no penalties for anonymising your work, no requirement for bylines. It is a luncheon voucher for industry hungry for free and cheap content."

An "orphan works" bill is being actively pushed in the United States by aggressive corporate lobbying (bribes to politicians) as well so your images can be stolen, as long as someone can say that you couldn't be contacted (changed your email address since you uploaded photos somewhere). Under the UK model penalties for misuse will be nonexistent, companies can willfully misuse a photo and pay a modest fee only IF they are caught:

"So Flickr, Google Images, personal websites, all of it will become commercial publishers' photolibrary. A fee will have to be deposited with a collecting society in case the owner spots the usage. The author who discovers his work has been used as an orphan can then make a claim and receive a percentage of the peanuts, after the collecting society has had its share, and the government its share."

Don't want images of your children to be used inappropriately? Don't want images of your parents to be used to advertise mental illness or hemmorhoids? Tough luck. You didn't make it enough of an issue with your elected representatives, and you trusted the corporations that you uploaded your images to.