Vigorously denounce covid opportunism!

THE CORONAVIRUS has been an opportunity for scammers offering fake face masks and so on. It's also been taken up for the purposes of fake philanthropy: giving other people's stuff away.

On 24 March the Internet Archive announced what it called a "National Emergency Library". This offers "all the books from Phillips Academy Andover and Marygrove College, and much of Trent University's collections, along with over a million other books donated from other libraries".

So who did the "donating"? Not, of course, the authors who retain copyright in their books. In a response to criticism, the Archive claimed that "books newer than 5 years are not in the National Emergency Library". We'd like to see that checked. But it makes clear that what the Archive has done is to unilaterally declare the "term" of copyright cut to 5 years - from, almost everywhere, the life of the author plus 70 years.

And... that criticism. The US Authors Guild "is appalled" and "shocked that the Internet Archive would use the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to push copyright law further out to the edges, and in doing so, harm authors, many of whom are already struggling". Guild President Douglas Preston had an opinion piece in the New York Times: "The Pandemic Is Not an Excuse to Exploit Writers".

That was mild. The Music Tech Policy blog called the move "a scam" and hoped that a letter from Senator Thom Tillis, chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, would "finally provoke the Google lobbyists to come out into the daylight". For - yes - the Internet Archive shares an interest with the internet advertising company in undermining copyright.

Looking for more... piquant condemnation we turn to copyright blogger and singer songwriter David C Lowery (@davidclowery) and we are not disappointed. The Internet Archive is "giving away someone else work for free without permission and asking for 'donations' from Silicon Valley firms that ultimately benefit from the weakening of copyright. Lying to public about legal acquisition of books (RICO ping #2 wire fraud). Directors get 6-7 figure salaries." ("RICO" is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, US legislation against criminal conspiracies - the Mob.) And further: "The Internet Archive took in $17,000,000 in 2017. I'm sure it's more now. But in the name of a "national emergency" they decided to give away millions of authors books without any compensation. This is pure war profiteering. Boycott any library that endorses this."

Others have played similar games. As we write iStockPhoto had this on its UK home page: "COVID-19 | Supporting our customers: With the rapid and ongoing spread of COVID-19, we are aware that for some of our clients, this may mean financial impact. We've curated a selection of free images for your COVID-19 communications - because when it comes to communicating in times like these, the last thing you need to worry about is your budget for imagery".

NUJ Photographers' Council chair notes that the photo agency Alamy - bought by PA Media Group in February - has done something similar and that it is "not at all helpful for the creators who get paid so little for use as it is". See below.

Things get stranger

Journalist Andrew Orlowski points to a bizarre claim in a letter to World Intellectual Property Organization head Francis Gurry that "the 'spread of covid-19 was discovered' thanks to a copyright exception. Therefore we must have more exceptions." In fact, the research on the spread of the virus used airline ticketing data, which is commercially available. And "in fact," he adds, "this story may well prove the value of the IP model: commercially licensing stuff to clever people who can find interesting new uses for it. A market."

And in other, better news...

On 9 April the French competition authority granted requests for urgent interim measures to require Google to start negotiating payments under the new "neighbouring right" for press publishers and the agency AFP. Negotiations must start within three months, should be conducted in good faith, and will be retroactive, covering remuneration due since the entry into force of the law on 24 October 2019. This is the first test of this provision of the new EU Directive.

16 April 2020

Great picture give-away

It's worse than we thought. This blog lists promotion codes that 11 image agencies are offering to "give back to businesses and designers in need" - by taking from photographers and illustrators.

If you're a designer, we can't stop you taking advantage of these. We can ask you to make a donation to the NUJ's charity to make up for the cut that photographers and illustrators are taking on the already-inadequate fees they get for sales through such agencies. You could even ask your client to chip in....