A controversial “orphan works” law, making it legal under certain conditions to use photos and other creative works belonging to copyright owners who cannot be located, took effect took effect October 29 in the United Kingdom. Efforts to enact a similar law in the US continue to languish.
Orphan works laws reduce the legal risk for publishers, film makers, museums, libraries, universities, and private citizens who want to use copyrighted works, but cannot locate the copyright owners of those works. The laws are intended to make the works available for public benefit, provided users conduct a “diligent search” for the owners before using the works. But photographers, artists, and their trade groups have resisted the laws, fearing they will end up protecting infringers who don’t search diligently for copyright owners. Some opponents fear that orphan works laws may even give infringers incentive to turn traceable works into orphan works by stripping away credits and other metadata.
But so far, the new UK law is causing little worry. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for photographers,” says David Hoffman of Editorial Photographers UK (EPUK).
The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and other US photo trade groups that issued dire warnings two years ago that the UK law would bring about “a firestorm of international litigation” are mostly quiet now. “I think the law they’ve come out with [in the UK] is pretty reasonable,” says Eugene Mopsik, the outgoing executive director of the ASMP. (more…)