I’ve put on hold my really cool photo post to bring you this important news I’ve come across. The UK is passing a law that is quickly being dubbed the Instagram act. Most likely due to how Instagram had gone and changed the rules about your photography ownership.
So why should you care? Who might this effect? Just about all of us actually, at least anyone who has ever uploaded a photo to Facebook, Flickr or any other social networking site. How so? Well, there are things typically added on to your photo saying who took it, where, when, etc. This is called meta data. The social media sites strip that bit off when you upload your image. Now without its information it’s free to travel the web without crediting you. Now technically if the photo was on your Facebook page, one couldn’t say they don’t know where it came from. But basically there are people out there who want to share things but don’t give proper credit, so they download the image and pass it off as their own. I have made friends with a lot of photographers and can say this happens way more than you might think. So these photos that no one can tell who they belong to are considered ‘orphans’ and will now be allowed to be used in licensing for commercial work.
So you ask “Again, why do I care?” Well, if you had hopes of selling your work or perhaps just hate that it can be sold and you get nothing, that could be a reason to care. Large corporations could grab up all the works out there, remove any blur or otherwise unusable image and sell the rest to anyone who is in need of art work.
The official press release can be viewed here, but I’ll save you some time.
It says: “modernise the UK’s copyright regime to promote innovation in the design industry, encouraging investment in new products while strengthening copyright protections. Creating a level playing field for collecting societies and the thousands of small businesses and organisations who deal with them by strengthening the existing regulatory regime. For the first time orphan works will be licensed for use; these are copyrighted works for which the owner of the copyright is unknown or can’t be found. There will also be a system for extended collective licensing of copyright works.”
So some of you are saying big deal, I don’t even live in the UK, and who would want my photos anyway. They are just of me and the kids. Despite the cynicism I’ve seen in the photo community over the loss of revenue, I’ve come up with a different reason to hate this. First, let's address that it’s just a UK thing. So you're outside the UK and you’re expecting your local laws to cover you. Ok, this made for a great debate last night. I won with the observation if that was how laws work... why can’t the USA stop the piracy of movies in China? Answer: it’s not happening on their soil and that means there is not a damn thing anyone can do. Next, just pics of you, eh? Great! You don’t think advertisers need people in their ads? How about ads people don’t want to model for? You could be the new face for some ass cream. LOL! But seriously, why not? Recall the episode of ‘Friends’ where Joey was duped and had his likeness on posters for a STD clinic? Ya, well, the marketing team could choose from so many faces for such an ad, including yours.
Perhaps finally now you're thinking WTH? What can I do? Well, I’ve seen the ideas that are being tossed around. One was to limit the size of what you're putting up. Smaller copies couldn’t really be used in a magazine. Will that work? NO, they still can be used on the web. You liked it on Facebook, right? Well then...
Next was a watermark on your photos. Ok... ready for it?... If said watermark does not lead one to finding who you are, then it’s still an orphaned photo and a little Photoshop work and it’s gone. Now my watermark says akaawol.com but I’m not delusional enough to think that this could protect me completely. Anyone with good Photoshop skills can remove the watermark and say oops, look what I found. How could you prove otherwise? How might you know unless you're in the UK?
So what do we do to protect our work and the like? I’ve heard there is a way you can register your photos. It takes time and puts some code directly in with the images’ meta data. I’m going to guess this would take a lot of time to upload all your work and potentially download it with this new code in it.
Ok, if you have been following along so far you're probably thinking, “Wait, doesn't this spell doom for social media sites that thrive due to the images the community tosses up there?” Well, I’m glad you are taking this seriously. I don’t think it’s going to for two big reasons. One is the huge mass of people who just don’t care. Don’t really think about it or didn’t know cause they didn’t see it on the news, whatever. Those people will just keep on posting. My other big reason is the big players like G+ and Facebook are not so stupid and if there was a fall in usage they would be quick to look for reasons and find ways to work around this. One would be to stop scrubbing the meta data from an image when it gets uploaded. Not that this could prevent a dishonest person from wiping it out himself. But it would represent a first step in this. Perhaps this will spawn new software that if you tamper with a protected image it’s lost all together (though a printscreen can still snapshot it).
Who know where this is going? No clue, but I can tell you I plan to keep on top of this and will keep my readers updated.