The Digital Economy or 'Orphan' Bill as it is commonly known is currently working its way through Parliament. Clause 42  of great significance to you, the photographer. It introduces Section 116B to the Copyright Act, giving the Secretary Of State the power to create a licensing body that can in effect transfer copyright from one person to another without consent - which could, in theory, include transferring it from the photographer to those commissioning them or employing their sevices.

The Intellectual Property Office states that our concern is unjustified as the aim of the Bill is simply to allow culural insitutions to publish or use 'orphan' works within their archives and there is no hidden agenda or intent to harm the professional photographer.  An 'orphan' work is a photograph or other creative work for which the owner cannot be easily traced. Currently, such works cannot be used unless the copyright holder is found.

Whilst we can see and agree with the need to create legislation which will allow the use of important works for historical and cultural reasons we are strongly opposed to the use of works for commercial gain, when they belong to someone and the current wording of the Bill allows for ANY use of an orphaned work in both commercial or non-commercial ways. In short that means someone else could make money out of your work, and lets face it in todays electronic society full of social blogs it is very easy for your work to speed around the world without anyone knowing you were the creator, making it an 'orphan' work.

We intend to formally lobby both Members of Parliament and the Lords, to obtain suitable amendments to the proposed Act in order to protect you, the creator's rights and property. At the same time we will be canvassing to amend the standing moral rights legislation, bringing the UK into line with the EU and Berne agreement in international law so that it is the creators right to be automatically named as the author.

If you feel strongly enough about the dangers of this legislation you too can write a letter expressing your concerns to your Local MP  (http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ or http://www.writetothem.com).  Please remember that MPs have to respond to letters posted by constituents but not emails so a letter would be better if you can. The key points to mention can be found here: http://copyrightaction.com/epuk-issues-deb-briefing-paper-position-statement.

The Bill in full can be found at
http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2009-10/digitaleconomy/documents.html