The Copyright Fight – David Bailey weighs in…

Today is the day when the UK Government could vote to include a seemingly innocuous clause in an otherwise largely uncontroversial piece of legislation that will not only harm our industry but also place this country at odds with a vital international treaty. It is upsetting, bizarre and unnecessary to the point of being farcical.

The BPPA has been trying very hard to get the Government to see sense and drop the copyright clause from the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Bill for a while now. In a world where the intervention of a celebrity can unclog jams and open doors we decided to ask UK Photography’s biggest celebrity, David Bailey, to write to cabinet members on behalf of all owners and creators of intellectual property. He decided to write to George Osborne MP, The Chancellor of the Exchequer personally and he has given us permission to circulate that letter as widely as we wish – and here it is…


David Bailey’s letter to George Osborne MP

The text of the letter in full:

Dear George

I am writing because I am appalled at what the government is doing to our rights in the ERRB (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill). Why the ERRB by the way? Why can’t copyright be dealt with properly in a proper Copyright Bill? I’m told everyone will be able to get their hands on our so-called “orphans” so libraries and museums can publish old photographs whose authors have long been forgotten. But never mind what’s lying around on dusty old shelves, what about the millions of “orphans” that are being created now every day!

Why? Because social media, and everyone else for that matter routinely strip our names and contact details from our digital files. They simply should not be allowed to get away with this. They can because our government refuses to give us the right to our names by our pictures (Moral rights). So now commercial organisations will be allowed to make money from our “orphans”, but not us, the creators.

This legislation should never have been even considered without first giving us our moral rights, and is contrary to our rights under the Berne Convention. Why the rush? A scheme, the Copyright Hub – a scheme backed by the government – is being developed to ensure that those who wish to find our pictures can not only do so quickly online, but also find the contact details of the pictures’ owners. You are about to put the cart before the horse.

I’m told the real reason for speed is that “releasing” orphans will create growth. We all understand the need for growth. But where’s the evidence? The seemingly impressive financial figures presented originally in the Hargreaves Review have mysteriously had to be revised – down by 97%! Which now apparently amount to no more than 80p per taxpayer per year. Given the damage this legislation will now cause to taxpaying creators, damage no-one has so far taken into account, the effect of this legislation on economic growth will in fact be negative.

It’s not too late to think again!


David Bailey


49 thoughts on “The Copyright Fight – David Bailey weighs in…

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  2. Thanks to Mr Bailey for writing. This really is a bonkers law. It takes money from people who create works , mainly tax paying UK small businesses and gives it as reduced costs to large companies who use works who are mainly overseas corporations with “interesting ” tax arrangements.
    I’m only a 1 man photography business but I sell image licences all over the world, its all tax paid 20% income tax, 9% national insurance and 20% vat for uk customers. Thats real money coming into the UK. Like most photographers I don’t have any fancy accountants or subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands. My situation is the same for most UK creatives whether photographers, video cameramen or writers.
    The government is shooting themselves in the foot with this act.

  3. I hope he heeds the words of Bailey better than all the other cries of moral outrage by most of the general public that are continually ignored.

  4. First, many thanks David.
    I photograph for publishers of educational books and over the past 15 years reproduction rates have been pushed down and down. To survive, the pictures have to be sold multiple times and the market place is the internet. Unfortunately, the net is also the place where photographs are, if you like, laundered – their physical watermarks removed and the metadata stripped out. I have, for instance, found my pictures on a website in India run by a giant chemical company who will not even acknowledge my correspondence. Now these pictures can be passed around and as “orphans” will be fair game for any company to use.
    What photographers need is legal protection for our images; the database of “orphans” open to inspection by professional photographers to reclaim images; an end to publication of un-attributed images by publishers as these pictures will end up in the world publishing market without a credit or fee.

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  17. One question:

    As this is in contradiction with the Berne copyright convention, how does this affect photographers in other countries? I am not a UK citizen, I upload my work on companies that are not based in the UK. Can a US-based company appropriate the rights to sell my work based on this UK law, regardless of what other copyright laws claim?

    • The answer is that until the regulations that go with this enabling legislation are published we are all in the dark – which is why we would expect anything that comes close to the free-for-all that some people are worried about to be subjected to Judicial Review. Some of the big agencies are already lining up their IP lawyers to challenge this.

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  26. Interesting, but what about my right NOT to be photographed by all and sundry, then posted on Flickr, pinkfish etc….What claim do I, who wishes NOT to be photographed nor have any of MY property (which is my creation) photographed, have on this so called creation that you, the photographer claims to be your copyright.

  27. A photographer owns the copyright to the photographs that they take if the picture is an original work. If it is just a slavish copy of something you have created then you might have a case for a breach of your copyright. As far as your rights to not be photographed; that is something that you should take up with those that agree with you and something that you have every right to campaign for a change in the law about. If your friends are posting pictures against your wish, they are not very good friends. If it is random strangers then you must be doing something very cool and interesting or something out of the ordinary. How you control that is a difficult question but copyright is not the right route to go down.

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  33. Whilst I agree entirely with David, I fear his letter to the chancellor will fall on deaf ears!

    I feel the chancellors motives are not aligned with the efforts of the average working photographer and he is influenced by the bigger players in the commercial market! (Vodafone, Google, to name just a couple)

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