The Digital Economy Bill is currently making its way through the UK legislative processes (official Parliament site). Photographers are up in arms about it. See for example these sites:
- British Journal of Photography: Digital Economy Bill still a threat to photographers
- Copyright Action: The Digital Economy Bill : what’s yours is ours
In summary, it seems that anyone will be able to use someone else’s work for free if they have tried and failed to find the original creator of the work. The main people to lose out, according to these sites, will be (1) amateur photographers, because their (usually unwatermarked) images will often be effectively usable for free, and (2) professional photographers, because there will be many more avenues to find free work.
On the websites I’ve linked to the ‘orphan works’ in question are photographs, but I imagine the same principles would apply to cartoons. I’m wondering, therefore, how this will affect cartoonists. In my own case many of the cartoons I post online have a website address included, but some of my work appears without a signature / web address, as that is included in the publication itself in some other way – in a heading or text attribution for instance. And what would happen if the work has a signature, but the person wanting to use the cartoon is still unable to trace the artist? I know of cartoonists who have had their work pinched by other people and later discovered it in use elsewhere, but this legislation would seem to add legitimacy to such occurrences.
I am, as you know, fairly laid back about personal reuse of my work on blogs if certain basic conditions are adhered to. I do, unfortunately, fairly regularly come across my work posted online without the website owner having applied the basic courtesy of posting a link to my site as I request on my (probably inadequate) copyright information page. Of course the reuse of cartoons by commercial organisations on websites or in print is another thing altogether.
I’m wondering whether writing a strongly worded letter or creating a small-to-medium-sized fuss might be in order. I’d be pleased to hear from anyone who has looked into this in greater depth and open to ideas as to the appropriate action to be taken. Perhaps cartoonists are already doing something about this, but if so a quick search didn’t reveal any such initiatives.