The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill could empower Government to CONFISCATE* YOUR PROPERTY, and with it your income, your job, and your future career, in four different ways:
1. EXCEPTIONS TO COPYRIGHT CONFISCATE YOUR PROPERTY
Clause 66 would enable ‘the Secretary of State’ to change copyright exceptions and strip you of your Intellectual Property Rights - which are also your Human Rights - by imposing regulations that Parliament cannot alter. They can only be voted in or out. (In practice ‘the Secretary of State’ is not actually the Minister, but Department officials: this term is legalese for 'an unelected bureaucrat in the Intellectual Property Office'.)
Despite its name the Intellectual Property Office is no champion of copyright, and as it stands Clause 66 could empower the IPO to introduce any kind of copyright exception it thinks it can get away with, and confiscate your property from you. The IPO's purpose is clear: to acquire the power to change any aspect of copyright at will, unfettered by Parliamentary scrutiny. There are huge human rights and constitutional issues at stake here.
2. REMOVING COPYRIGHT PROTECTION FROM ‘ANONYMOUS’ WORKS CONFISCATES YOUR PROPERTY
Clause 67 would empower ‘the Secretary of State’ (as above) to change at will the duration of copyright for unpublished, anonymous and pseudonymous works. Intended ostensibly to fix the bizarre legal anomaly that unpublished works going back to medieval manuscripts remain in copyright until 2039, as written it could be used to strip copyright protection from almost any anonymous work. Photographs are easily anonymised: most on the Internet have had their creators’ details removed. That turns them into ‘anonymous works’ and potentially makes them vulnerable to this Clause, if it is passed unaltered.
YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS ARE YOUR LIVELIHOOD. IF YOU LOSE YOUR RIGHT TO TRADE THEM YOU COULD ALSO LOSE YOUR INCOME, YOUR JOB, AND YOUR FUTURE CAREER.
3. ORPHAN WORKS CONFISCATE YOUR COPYRIGHT
Until now, if someone found one of your photographs and wanted to use it commercially, they couldn't without asking you first. Clause 68 would change all that by allowing anyone to use ‘Orphan Works’ - photographs, illustrations and other copyright works whose owners cannot be contacted for permission to use them.
Clause 68 says that if someone finds your photograph, wants to use it and decides that they can’t trace you, they'll be able to do whatever they like with it after paying an arbitrary fee to a UK Government-appointed ‘licensing body’. You’ll never know unless you happen to find it being used in this way, in which case you should be able to claim some money.
4. EXTENDED COLLECTIVE LICENSING CONFISCATES YOUR RIGHT TO TRADE YOUR PROPERTY YOURSELF
Clause 68 also introduces ‘Extended Collective Licensing’.
This means that if someone wants to use your photograph, even if they can trace you they still wouldn't have to contact you for permission to use it. They could go to a UK Government-appointed ‘collecting society’ (that you might never have heard of) and ask them for a licence instead.
They’d pay an arbitrary fee and be able to do whatever they like with the photograph. Your photograph. Even something very nasty, like this. Again, without asking you first or paying what you would have charged, whether or not you would have agreed to your photograph being used in the first place. And again, you’d never know unless you happened to find it being used in this way, in which case you should be able to claim some money.