If you have you ever uploaded a photo to Facebook, Instagram or Flickr (that means pretty much all of you) you might want to read this. In the UK, the rights around who can use your images has drastically changed. A new reform act shifts the power away from citizens. It's something none of us ever wanted to see happen, and it's being called the "Instagram Act," named after the widely publicized attempt by Instagram to do something similar thing last year.
Before this act, ownership of your images was automatic. Once you snapped a photo it was considered to legally be your property, rights given to you in the Berne Convention and other international treaties. Those rights meant that in practice you can pursue legal action if someone exploits these rights and wrongs you by stealing them.
That's all being brushed aside, when the UK coalition government's law goes into effect. Last year Instagram attempted to do something similar, and let's just say that people were not to happy. But the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act has sailed through without most people even realizing that it existed, let alone the consequences.
"The Act contains changes to UK copyright law which permit the commercial exploitation of images where information identifying the owner is missing, so-called "orphan works", by placing the work into what's known as "extended collective licensing" schemes. Since most digital images on the internet today are orphans - the metadata is missing or has been stripped by a large organisation - millions of photographs and illustrations are swept into such schemes. For the first time anywhere in the world, the Act will permit the widespread commercial exploitation of unidentified work - the user only needs to perform a "diligent search". But since this is likely to come up with a blank, they can proceed with impunity. The Act states that a user of a work can act as if they are the owner of the work (which should be you) if they're given permission to do so by the Secretary of State.The Act also fails to prohibit sub-licensing, meaning that once somebody has your work, they can wholesale it. This gives the green light to a new content-scraping industry, an industry that doesn't have to pay the originator a penny. Such is the consequence of "rebalancing copyright", in reality."
Since the Act is merely enabling legislation it is unclear of the exact details which will be tabled later in the year. "Parliament has not voted down a statutory instrument since 1979, so the political process is probably now a formality." You now have one of two choices, either remove all your work from the internet, or register each image.
You can get the whole story at Register.com, which goes over the nitty gritty in a lot more detail.
How do you feel about these changes? How does it affect you? Are you going to do anything differently to try and prevent your work from being used? Let us know in the comments below.