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Survey shows photographers face increasing pressure over copyright

7 March 2009 - EPUK

Professional photographers are coming under increasing pressure to hand over their rights, with those working in the editorial markets hardest hit, according to a new industry-wide report into the photography sector.

The survey of more than 1,000 photographers, press agencies and picture libraries for the British Photographic Council found that 93% of photographers have come under pressure to hand over greater rights to clients for no increase in the fee, with 76% saying that their income has fallen as a result.

The British Photographic Council, of which EPUK is a member, says the results illustrate that existing copyright law is not protecting the rights of photographers and other creators.

John Toner, chair of the British Photographic Council said “At a time when the government is again consulting on the future of copyright, these results show existing UK copyright law is not protecting the interests of photographers in the way it was intended.”

The survey – believed to be the largest of its type ever undertaken – was carried out jointly by the Association of Photographers (AoP), the British Press Photographers Association (BPPA), the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ), EPUK, Pro-Imaging, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and the National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA). during February 2009. The results of the survey will be submitted to the current Lammy Review into copyright law in the UK.

Editorial and PR sectors “worst”

Of those surveyed, 74% said that clients’ demands for greater rights had become more common over the last five years, with the editorial and PR sectors cited as the worst offenders.

72% of respondents said that they had discovered their copyright had been infringed during the last three years – with each respondent discovering an average of 26 different infringements.

However, while 99% of photographers said they were concerned by the infringements, only a quarter of those said that they tried to pursue every case, with 71% saying that this was due to the difficulty of raising a legal action.

At a time when US and EU governments are looking at exemptions to existing copyright laws to legalise the use of ‘orphan works’ – artistic works where the author cannot be identified or traced – 83% of photographers said they believed they should be entitled to a mandatory credit every time their work is used.

Half of photographers expect to earn less in 2009

Other key findings include:

  • 30% of photographers said they had encountered attempted rights grabs in the newspaper and magazine sectors,
  • 74% of those photographers who were successful in chasing up infringements said that they did not consider the amount they received was fair compensation for the infringement, with 88% stating that the amount paid by the infringer would not serve as adequate deterrent to stop similar copyright breaches in the future.
  • 47% of photographers expect their level of business to shrink over the coming year, compared to 20% who expect it to grow.
  • 76% of photographers say their income has declined due to their resistance to pressure to hand over more rights for little or no more money, with 56% saying that their income had fallen “moderately” or “significantly” as a result.
  • Two-thirds of photographers said their annual turnover was below £70,000 excluding VAT, with 8% reporting that it was over £200,000.
  • Three-quarters of photographers work as sole traders, with only 3% having a staff of six or more.

Root and branch changes

British Photographic Council chair John Toner said the Lammy Review provided an opportunity to address the weaknesses of current copyright law.

“We need root and branch changes that would make it unlawful to transfer copyright, and moral rights legislation that would ensure both the right to attribution and to protection of the integrity of images.”

“Further, we need access to the legal system to ensure that small claims of infringement can be pursued speedily and at a cost commensurate with the scale of the claim.”

The full survey can be downloaded here (240kb, PDF format)

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