Friday, 18 March 2011

Google, photo copyright and the promotion of confusion

Google has made its submission to the UK's "Independent Review of Intellectual Property and Growth". You can read Google's view on UK copyright law at the link.

Whatever happens to make the situation different, copyright is still for many going to remain a complicated issue. The review covers all sorts of content and of course Google's interests are served by changes which open the way for it to make money out of other people's innovations or creations.

Looking at photography, there is one simple change that would improve clarity for everyone. Google and other search engines should voluntarily, and if not voluntarily, be forced by law to present the truth about copyright in its search results.

Perform any search on Google's image search engine and you'll see the following statement should you click through to a larger version of the image:

"This image may be subject to copyright."

I originally made the point in my blog post The myth of the copyright free photo - "found it on the web" . This statement by Google introduces confusion in a world where the legal reality is:

"This image is almost certainly copyright and you should should contact the copyright owner before making use of the image."

Then Google should provide a link to information on how to find the copyright owner. Yes, there are ways, but I'll not go into that here.

This will make people think twice about using a photo - particularly commercial use which it the use which undermines my livelihood as a photographer. The words "may be subject to copyright" bring into play wishful thinking and the convenience of a "I thought it was copyright free" defence for those who wilfully want to make money for themselves out of other people's creative efforts.

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