There was a positive development in the fight to protect creative artists rights earlier this year when BT and TalkTalk lost their appeal against their obligation under the Digital Economy Act to take action against illegal file sharing.

Online copyright is frequently debated in the context of music, film and video content and is often represented by those advocating the theft of creative content as a battle between a “free” internet and “greedy” media corporations.  As well as the fact that there is no moral justification for stealing the products of other people’s hard work, it ignores the impact of such theft on the creative artists themselves, the production companies and the hundreds of thousands of people employed in creating the content, and totally ignores the widespread theft of the work of illustrators, photographers, artists and the thousands of musicians, actors and filmmakers whose work is not distributed by large corporations.

Worryingly, Alan Capel, Head of Content at stock image library Alamy, in a round table discussion on future models for image licensing, described an internet generation of “freenagers”  ‘who consider almost anything online – images, music, video, games, text – to be freely available and theirs to share”. I don’t believe this. I think the majority of teenagers understand that there are rights associated with music and films and they only illegally download them because its easy and they think there is little chance of any comeback. Rather than rolling over and giving in, or ignoring or diluting rights in an act of commercial self-interest as some content users wish to,  the industry and our legislators need to be educating people that all kinds of artistic creations including photographic images are by default protected in law by copyright.

Those who want to be free to practice internet piracy, to be able to take anyone else’s creative work without paying and without permission, should try one or more of the following :

– offer to work without getting paid

– suggest to their bosses that all the goods and services they provide should be given away for free

– go down to HMV and try walking out with a big armful of CDs and DVDs without paying

– steal the garden furniture, or shrubs and pot plants, out of their  neighbour’s front garden and put them in their own, on the basis that “it’s out there for anyone to see and to take, isn’t it?”

….and see what happens.