News coming out of the European Union today is that 19 of the partnering nations have agreed to enact new copyright laws that will bring copyright issues into the 21st century. While the bill had been heavily opposed by many across the pond and beyond, the new laws will hopefully help protect those of us who create images and content from greedy corporations who feel like they can just take as they please. As controversial as this topic has been, there is no doubt that these new copyright laws should become norm in the States as well–especially for the protection of photographers.
A recent post on Engadget talked about the new copyright laws that just cleared the final piece of red tape in their way. The new laws, which will make it illegal for anyone to use images without express permission and licensing, have been going through the courts for quite some time, but after 19 member states of the European Union voted in favor of them, the new copyright laws will become effective in 24 months. As you can imagine, powerhouses such as Google and untold amounts of massive, greedy corporations believe the new copyright laws will have a huge impact on them.
Well cry me a river! Sob, sob, boo hoo, these corporations will now have to get express permission and licenses from the copyright holders before any image can be snatched from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and every other social media platform out there. On top of that, these platforms will now have to police all copyrighted images and media shared on their platforms. These companies, that make more in a couple of minutes than you or I will likely earn in a lifetime, are calling foul play because they will have to pay for content. Oh give it a break!
One of the bigger issues that will come from this though will affect many who use platforms such as Reddit, 9GAG, and other meme sharing sites. Memes and GIFSs that contain any copyrighted material and images cannot be used without permission and licensing from those who made the original content. So you will have to think long and hard before you use a meme that has a movie, product, tv show, or any other copyrighted material referenced in it. As mentioned above, there is always some bad to go along with the good, but fair is fair. You’re protected and so are the makers of those materials.
As a working professional photographer who makes money from the work I produce, I have to say (along with others on staff here) that these new copyright laws are for the best in the long run, and we believe that they should be put in place here in the USA as well. The amount of images shared by photographers that then get stolen by companies is way too high. I have been a victim of this before, and unless you have never ending pockets of money to fight these companies, you’re not going to beat them. At least with the new copyright laws, if your work is copyrighted (and that’s the key) you can punch these greedy platforms in the neck. We as photographers and creatives absolutely should have and deserve the same protections as other industries.
We work hard, we spend our time producing the content, and we are trying to make a living. It’s slap in the face and a kick in the groin when someone takes our work and uses it to profit without our permission. With companies like Unsplash and their partners (who we have talked about before) that mislead photographers into giving up all image rights, and multi-billion dollar companies who just take as they please when they can more than afford to pay to use content we create, we need all the protection we can get. Sure, memes are fun, but I can live without them, I (and millions of other) can’t live and provide for themselves and their families when our work is being stolen. It’s time for the USA to bring its copyright laws up to date as well.
Our suggestion: be careful what work you share, and where you share it. If it is an image you’re truly proud of, get it registered and protected before you share it. Until sweeping changes to the copyright laws occur in the USA, you will at least have a leg to stand on if and when you go up against the corporate bullies out there.