Facebook and Instagram users in Britain may no longer solely own their photos. As of last week, the U.K.’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, passed the final stages to become law. This new act is basically a change to existing copyright laws, which will allow commercial use of images that do not have any information identifying the owner. Known as “orphan work”, companies are now permitted to claim these photos after doing a diligent search to first identify the owner.
At the end of the day, if you take a great picture of a sunset, a company can take that picture and advertise with it as their own or even sell it to other companies. All this without giving you any credit or cut in the profit. Apparently your only option to prevent having your photographic work constantly being stolen, is to register every photo you take. If this sounds like more trouble than its work, you are probably right. Currently there is only one registry available, which will make registering all your photos quite tedious.
It seems that an increase in law suits over who owns what on the internet is eminent in the U.K. Whether or not a company did in fact make a diligent search for the owner will be a very grey area, since it is hard to quantify what exactly constitutes as diligent. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the pond. We have heard whispers of similar things happening here in the U.S. but after seeing how the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act effects Britain, we should all have a better idea of the correct rout to take.