Monday 15 February 2016

Is the Future of Copyright only going in One Direction?

The website Petapixel and the Daily Mail have reported on a spat between a Belgian photographer named Ezequiel Scagnetti and One Direction band member Harry Styles. It seems that Styles used a photograph of a Burmese boxer taken by Scagnetti on his Instagram page, without crediting Scagnetti or obtaining his permission. Scagnetti responded in a fairly forthright way, and in so doing incurred the disdain of some of Styles's fans. Given that Styles has nearly 16 million followers on his various social media accounts, there was a high probability of the flame war which ensued.

It is debatable whether the posts of the young fans who leapt to the defence of their idol are indicative of the general level of knowledge about copyright of that particular demographic as a whole. But the fact that Harry Styles - someone whose considerable fortune is largely thanks to copyright - saw fit to just appropriate this image in the way that he did, is a sad reflection on how the use of social media has the potential to undermine the value of copyright, particularly in photographs. I have no idea aboout Styles's personal position on the UK government's attempts to bring in the private copying exception, but I can be pretty sure that his record label, and many others in the music business, vehemently oppose it, unless it is accompanied by a levy on recordable media etc. It is therefore more than a little ironic that one of the most high profile of musicians should effectively be saying that copying other people's work on social media is acceptable. Don't forget that, unlike the two examples I quoted in my previous posting about 'lifting' images from social media, Scagnetti is a professional photographer, and thus stands to be financially damaged by this sort of behaviour.

However following his somewhat intemperate initial outburst, the photographer was wise enough to know that he couldn't win in slanging match with the fans. Instead he posted a short summary (an extract of which is shown below) of why copyright matters both to him and Harry Styles, presumably in the hope of educating the fans who clearly neither know nor care about such things.
 " Do you know that #harrystyles and myself, we live of [sic] copyright? Every streamed song, every CD you buy, every concert ticket you pay, you are paying artist’s copyrights. If you are not paying for it, some sponsor or company is doing it for you. Nothing is free. Neither Harry Styles work’s [sic], neither my work."

However I fear it will take much more than this and the IPO's initiatives, to eradicate the widespread practice of lifting and sharing of other people's work, particularly photographs, on social media.

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