stopped Commercial Orphan Works Exploitation in the UK Digital Economy Bill Clause 43

"Ashes to Ashes" election campaign posters probably breach copyright. The proof? A mouse mat

The Labour Party yesterday released a poster based on the character Gene Hunt from the BBC series Ashes to Ashes. The Times Online says:

“The poster, designed by a member of the public, shows the Conservative leader’s head super-imposed onto the body of the popular character [Gene Hunt] from BBCs Ashes to Ashes. He is leaning on the bonnet of Hunt's trademark Audi Quattro next to the slogan, “Don’t let him take Britain back to the 1980s.” Hunt, played by Philip Glenister, is famous for his no-nonsense, politically incorrect style.”

The Conservative Party immediately issued a derivative poster with a different shot of David Cameron’s face superimposed, and the slogan replaced with “Fire up the Quattro. It’s time for change”.

Today, Sky News reports that Philip Glenister is not happy with the way the ads have been used.

According to the Telegraph, the idea for this image was only conceived of last week:

“Labour’s Ashes to Ashes poster was created by Jacob Quagliozzi, 24, a Labour supporter from St Albans, who entered a competition organised by the party’s advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, which invited supporters to meet a brief posted online last weekend.”

The red 1980’s Audi Quattro featured in the image is extremely rare and has been positively identified as the one used in the show by a specialist car photographer (we’re photographers, remember: we know these things). Startled by the remarkably short time in which to find and photograph for the campaign the very vehicle used in the show (we’re photographers, remember: we know these things), we suspected that a promotional shot for the series had been used instead.

We were right. The image is all over the Internet. We have even found the original picture for sale on eBay being used as a mouse mat image. Comparison of the angle of shot, reflections in the car’s bonnet, “Hunt’s” stance, creases in clothing, etc. confirm our suspicion.

Ashes to Ashes is written by Monastic Productions, produced by Kudos Film & Television and distributed by BBC Worldwide. A publicity still from the series is posted here, credited “(c) Kudos Film & Television/Monastic Productions - BBC” - thereby stating that all three companies are rights holders in this image.

We would like to know:

1. Does the Labour Party have a Licence to Use this image for this purpose? This is a publicity (PR) picture - a PR Licence does not normally permit use for party political advertising. We won't know unless and until someone produces a Licence to Use, and whether that Licence includes advertising. If not, they are in breach of copyright.

2. If they do have such a Licence, from whom did they obtain it? Monastic Productions, Kudos Film & Television or BBC Worldwide?

3. Why was it granted? On the evidence of this picture, the BBC almost certainly holds rights in all publicity images from the series. The BBC is prohibited by its charter from engaging in partisan political activity.

3. Has the Conservative Party also licensed the image from the rights holders for this purpose? Again we won't know unless and until someone produces a Licence to Use, and whether that Licence includes advertising. If not, they are in breach of copyright.

4. If they have licensed it, how, on a Bank Holiday? Of the three probable rights holders in the image, only the BBC is likely to have licensing staff working over the Easter weekend.

5. Does Philip Glenister’s contract allow the use of his image and performance for party political purposes without his prior permission?

6. Ashes to Ashes is broadcast by the BBC, which appears to hold rights in publicity images drawn from it. Why has the BBC allowed this image to be appropriated for party political purposes in this way? Furthermore, “Quattro” is a Volkswagen Registered Trade Mark. Has the Conservative Party obtained Volkswagen’s permission to use it?

Monastic Productions and Kudos Film & Television can also be held to account - did BBC Worldwide really grant them rights to licence stills for political advertising? Or is the series entirely the production companies’ Intellectual Property - did they merely grant BBC Worldwide distribution rights? Either way, the production companies have shown very poor judgement and arguably brought the BBC into disrepute, raising questions about the BBC's handling of external productions and associated Intellectual Property.

Similar questions can be asked over use of the show’s footage in a YouTube video.

BBC Worldwide is known to harbour ambitions of becoming a licensing body for Orphan Works and collecting society for Extended Collective Licensing.

People wonder why photographers make such a noise about breach of copyright, Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing. This is exactly the kind of “misrepresentation” that these schemes will promote.

If Labour and Conservative parties can't even understand normal licensing procedure themselves, then how can they be trusted to legislate changes to it?