Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Copyright, fair use and so on - I'm sure you know this already but...

When I started reading this post on the BBC News Editors' Blog about the circumstances under which it would be OK for the BBC to publish people's photographs from Facebook, I was at first completely astounded.

Does the BBC really not know its copyright law? What planet are they on?

With the growth of social networking and personal websites, it has become far easier for the media to get hold of such pictures. If we do use them, can this be justified?

Then I started reading the comments posted under the article and I was rather impressed with the general understanding of photographer's rights.

And then, I'm ashamed to say, I found out something I did not know and should have known about fair dealing. It's referred to by "Robert" who links to an article which explains that:

The UK Copyright Act is in fact very similar to the American one when it comes to news reporting. There is a “fair dealing” exception in the UK for “reporting current events”. The factors which UK judges take into account when applying our fair dealing exception are similar to those applied by US judges for fair use. The UK news reporting exception varies from US law in one crucial respect, however. It doesn’t apply to photographs.

A painting or even a video still can be published without permission in the UK news media, if the publication is “fair”, but a photograph cannot. [...] When passing the 1988 Copyright Act, Parliament made an exception for photographs because it recognised that (a) there would only rarely be cases when a photograph could fairly be used without permission for reporting current events but (b) the media would nevertheless try to rely on a fair dealing defence if it was available, just as CBS tried to rely on fair use, and (c) in practice, this would undermine news photographers’ markets, because the vastly superior economic muscle of the media would make it difficult in practice for photographers to protect their rights.

So, you live and learn. Well, I do, anyway.

Thanks to my colleague Isabel Davies for drawing my attention to the blog entry.

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