Orphan asked questions

WHAT SHOULD happen when someone wants to publish an article or image but genuinely cannot find the author? (For these purposes photographers are "authors".) The union's Freelance Industrial Council (FIC) has developed draft guidelines for consultations with Westminster and in Europe, and is consulting with other arms of the NUJ and with other creators' organisations.

This debate could lead to gains for journalists: for example, as noted in the overview in the November Freelance, it would be "transparently stupid" to make provision for use of works for which no author can be identified without giving all authors the right to be identified - a right denied to journalists in the UK and Ireland. At a meeting launching a UK government consultation on 8 January Lord Triesman, responsible Minister in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, sounded as though he conceded this. Then on 15 January Triesman, the first Minister in a while who actually understands our questions, went off to chair the Football Association. We look forward to discussing this and more with Lady Morgan.

That same consultation is considering proposals to legalise private copying (in the home) in the UK - without any payment to authors. While writers may not mind someone sending their aunt an article, already-stony-broke local paper photographers could be out of pocket. EU law says we must be fairly compensated for such uses. Can no payment be fair payment? In most EU states this payment comes from a "levy" on copying equipment, from blank CDs to computer hard disks. That system is bitterly opposed by free-marketeers. How else could fair payment be funded? Answers on a postcard or email editor@londonfreelance.org by mid-March, please.

Meanwhile, the general principles in the FIC draft - especially that permission to reproduce orphans must be governed by an explicit license and attract a commercial fee, to be spent for the benefit of authors in general if no parents show up - seem to be gaining ground in discussion at EU level. Now we have to work out how that applies to librarians' desire to get a single licence to scan and put online "a shoebox full of old photos".

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