The Digital Economy Bill – Clause 43


The Digital Economy Bill is on the verge of being rushed through to the statute books before the general election later this year. It is a wide ranging bill, obviously aimed at regulating the digital economy – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

But it has a big flaw. Clause 43 would allow the use of “Orphan Works” – photographs, illustrations and other artworks whose owners cannot be found.

Originally intended to allow non-profit organizations to make use old archives, many corporate bodies have realized that with clause 43, there is a huge amount of money to be made with ‘unidentified’ work.

From the website:

Clause 43 says that if someone finds your photograph, wants to use it and decides that they can’t trace you, they can 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.

There’s more. Clause 43 also introduces “Extended Collective Licensing”.

This means that if someone finds your photograph and can trace you, they still don’t have to contact you for permission to use it. They can go to a UK Government-appointed “collecting society” and ask them instead. They’ll pay an arbitrary fee and be able to do whatever they like with the photograph. Your photograph. Again, without asking you first or paying what you would have charged.


Many MP’s have started to realize the Bill’s implications.  Austin Mitchell has tabled an Early Day Motion, asking for  it to be given a proper reading, rather than being rushed through in the last days of this Parliament. Let’s hope common sense prevails.

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