A case study of our need for a right of integrity

UK LAW provides that writers and photographers have a "right to object to derogatory treatment of work" - which is defined as treatment that "amounts to distortion or mutilation of the work or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author."

That "otherwise" means we can - in theory - "object" if our work is used in a context that harms our reputation. There's no clearer recent example of that than the experience of photographer Jamie Lorriman, one of whose photos following the attack on Westminster Bridge on 22 March showed a woman in a headscarf, clearly distressed. The photo was used by a notorious far-right troll, to whom the Freelance will not give further publicity, to claim that, as a Muslim, she was unconcerned.

The woman later publicly thanked Jamie for objecting loudly in the press. She asked that the image not be used further. Freelance Industrial Council Chair, the photographer Nick McGowan Lowe, tells the Freelance that "this case demonstrates precisely why photographers and other authors need to be able to object to our work being used in contexts that damage our reputations".

Freelance Organiser John Toner said: "It's hard enough to enforce the theoretical right in UK law. The perpetrator seems to be living in the US, where there is no such right. In the internet age we need these rights to be unwaivable and enforceable worldwide".

  • This case provided a timely illustration for the International Federation of Journalists' submission to the US Copyright Office on the need for rights of identification and integrity. At present, these exist in the US only for works of visual art in signed and numbered editions of 250 or fewer produced on a Tuesday. (There is one lie in the previous sentence.)