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UK loophole: Why your Facebook photos may show up on a billboard

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) A father takes a self portrait photo of himself and his son with his smart phone in a park Sept. 16 in Rio de Janeiro.

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British Parliament passed an act that could allow businesses in the UK to use photos obtained from Facebook and Instagram without permission.

Many photographers, amateur and professional, are fearful the act will enable their work to be exploited without credit, permission, or payment. 


The UK government says the act streamlines copyright licensing for works of unknown authorship.

This alteration to copyright law was tagged into a larger act aimed at cutting through regulatory red tape. Under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act – which last week received Royal Assent after passing parliament – “orphan works,” or works with an unknown author, could be used commercially or non-commercially.

The act alters the standing copyright regulations around “orphan works” by allowing businesses to pay a fee to use them if they can’t find the author. (The agency that receives the fee has yet to be established.) Usually, you’d have to wait for the copyright to expire to use an orphan work. 


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