This past Friday, I was happily going through my RSS feeds when I came upon an article speaking of the 'Instagram Act'. It obviously caught my eye and intrigued me so I went on and read it.
Since I've read about it, I've been searching, reading, documenting myself to decide wether I should be afraid or really afraid of it.
What's the Instagram Act?
The Instagram Act is the name commonly given to the UK's new Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. The full text for this act won't be published until Thursday, May 9 but its copyright provisions worry the artistic community who claim that legislation on orphan works and extended collective licensing will threaten their livelihoods.
Simply put, anybody can, after a diligent search for the author, use an image for commercial purposes without the author's authorization. Furthermore, they can claim the rights to the image and sub-license to their will.
I will update this post with the act's text once it is published.
What does it mean?
It means that if you have an image out there, somewhere, on the internet and that there's no way to link it back to you (ie. stripped metadata, no watermark, etc.) anybody can use it, make money off of it and there's nothing you can do about it! I'm a nervous wreck just writing this!
Let's take a simple and real example: my «Communication Problems» image.
I took this picture a few years ago, during my 365 - 1 photo a day project. Like all the other pictures from the same project, I uploaded it to Flickr. It was uploaded as an "all rights reserved" image but that did not stop literally hundreds of bloggers using it on their blogs. At least, some of them (too little of them) credited me. But credits don't pay the bills!
Anyway, this same image could be used by a wireless carrier. Their copy could say something like: «Enough of bad coverage and dropped calls?» Well the Instagram Act would allow them to use this image if, after a diligent search — please define diligent search — they can't link it back to me. The metadata has obviously been stripped and I don't watermark my images thus making this image an orphan.
What can we do?
Unfortunately, I don't see many solutions to this enormous problem. I only see two:
- Watermark your images to death and make them ugly as hell!
- Stop sharing your photos on the web. No more website, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Both solutions are a bit drastic but what else can we do to protect our livelihood?
What do you think?
You've probably figured by now that I'm not too happy about this new act and I'm a bit afraid even feel threatened by it.
How about you? Are you worried about your work being used against your will? Are you afraid or do you embrace the possible exposure?