26 April 2018

A Picture Tells a Million Copyright Stories


I met my good friend Karen, at the unveiling of the Dame Millicent Fawcett sculpture in Parliament Square London and Patrick, our Project Manager took this photo. The type of photo that we take all time. I wanted to use this photo to briefly unpick some copyright issues related to ownership, ethics, licensing and the use of the copyright exceptions – finishing with a bitter sweet flourish of an ending – all in time for World IP Day.

The artist Gillian Wearing was commissioned to create a sculpture of the Suffragist, Millicent Fawcett. Her sculpture is in the background of this photo. Gillian Wearing would be the automatic owner of the copyright in the sculpture, unless her commissioning agreement transferred these rights. At the base of the sculpture, Gillian has engraved the portraits of over 50 women and men – the unsung heroes of the campaign. We knew about this months ago because Gillian asked us to help research the rights in some of the more tricky ones. Over 50 photos, each required research and where possible rights clearance to ensure that the voices of all the individuals owning any rights that still persisted, could be heard. The relationship between copyright and ethics is the important force that drives us to do the right thing because we know it is right, not just because we are told it is right.

However, these are not the only rights contained in the sculpture, Millicent is holding up the words: Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere – her words, the words she used, the words that become a symbol of a struggle won, and struggles we continue to try and win now.

Patrick took the photo. Its a great photo and I asked him to take it for this blog. Its part of all the great things he does for us, and under the copyright legislation, Naomi Korn Copyright Consultancy Ltd would automatically own the rights in the photo. Crediting Patrick is not a legal requirement, but I think that it is ethically the right thing to do.

Like in many situations, copyright is not the only legal issue to consider. I asked Karen if it would be ok to use this photo online and she said yes. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, to be updated shortly by the Data Protection Act 2018 (GDPR), this is important. Photos of living identifiable individuals would be regarded as personal data, and this type of use would require permission.

So, how can we use this image of this website? There are a number of exceptions to copyright which would be relevant:

  • Incidental inclusion;
  • Reproducing an art work permanently located in premises open to the public (Freedom of Panorama);
  • Quotation.

These exceptions are UK specific and this is a blog published on an international publishing platform. Without harmonized copyright exceptions globally, or even across Europe, copyright exceptions are limited and users lack rights. On World IP Day, the lack of harmonized user rights is glaring.  Data and content must be able to move freely for a flourishing society and economy. Words and images, even when peoples are disenfranchised as Millicent and her fellow Suffragists and Suffragettes demonstrated have impact, they shape and change the world. Today, the legislation (and our own ethical backbones) need to interface to create a framework that finds the right balance between control and access, privacy and accountability.

In 1882, the Married Women’s Property Act, transferred all the property (including the copyright), from a woman to her husband upon marriage. Millicent married in 1867, and all her copyright, including the copyright in anything she would have written, would have passed to her husband. He died in 1884. For a short period of time, Millicent would not have owned anything, including the words she wrote. We must make sure that whether its our words, or the words of others, we can use these freely to change the world.

(c) Naomi Korn, 2018. Some Rights Reserved. This article and the accompanying photo, can be reused under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Licence. http://www.creativecommons.org Any re-use of the photo will require separate permission from the individuals appearing within.

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