Changes to copyright threaten visual artists' livelihood warns DACS

    The Government continues to pursue its ‘Modernising Copyright’ agenda and has published draft legislation relating to a number of copyright exceptions. A technical review of the exceptions is currently underway and DACS is preparing a response on behalf of visual artists. 

    Copyright exceptions describe limited circumstances where someone who wishes to use an artwork does not have to seek the permission of the artist, because the law recognises a legitimate interest in the use.
    We’re concerned that the legislation has been drafted with predominantly music and film in mind. There is no evidence that visual artists have been considered at all in the drafting of the exceptions, nor in the impact assessments or research. This could create a number of consequences for visual artists.
    The absence of definitions within the legislation means creators may be forced to take cases to court – something that visual artists don’t have the resources to do. 

    How the proposed exceptions could affect visual artists

    Private copying

    The proposed private copying exception is intended to deal with the common practice of making copies of music, for example, copying a CD onto a laptop or MP3 player.
    However, the draft legislation impacts visual artists in very different ways. Someone who owns a copy of an artwork would potentially be allowed to copy the work into a different medium. This could mean making t-shirts, merchandise items and posters for their own use, all of which would undermine an established, licensed market. 

    Parody, caricature and pastiche

    The current draft of this new exception allows for an artwork to be parodied, but also to be used to parody something else, without needing to seek the permission of the creator.
    We’re concerned that the draft legislation does not define what parody, caricature and pastiche are, which could lead to this exception having a wider application – covering anything that is ‘funny’ – and potentially undermining existing licensing.
    What concerns us is that under this exception, artists won’t have the opportunity to object to their artwork being associated with something they don’t agree with, prior to the artwork being used.

    Quotation, reporting current events and speeches

    The Government intends to replace the long-established exception for criticism and review with a new exception which would allow an artwork to be used in almost any context of criticism and review.
    For instance, an artwork could be used to criticise anything from politics to an individual’s style choice. This could significantly undermine existing licensing streams where publications have an overall critical or reviewing character, like newspapers in general.
    Bizarrely, it also seems to imply that the work can only be quoted, implying that only part of the work can be used, which could infringe an artist’s moral rights.

    DACS to represent visual artists in the conversation

    We’re preparing responses to the Government’s technical review over the summer. We’ll be publishing more information about these issues on our website soon.
    Visit the Intellectual Property Office for full details of the exceptions.

    Image details: Jim Lambie's 'Shared Ice 2012', courtesy of the artist and The Modern Art Institute / Tony Webster Ltd, Glasgow. Photo by Keith Hunter. © Jim Lambie. All rights reserved, DACS 2013

    Posted on 28/06/2013 by Laura Ward-Ure