News agencies and archive and licencing firms have joined forces to fight proposed changes to copyright law that they say will have a “devastating” impact on the creative industries.

Proposals from the Hargreaves Review, including ‘exceptions to copyright’ and ‘extended collective licensing’, are set to be implemented as part of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Lords.

Yesterday, AP, Getty Images, Reuters, British Pathe, The Press Association, and the Federation of Commercial and Audiovisual Libraries delivered a ‘letter before claim’ to business secretary Vince Cable as the first step towards a judicial review of the process.

“Normally we would go hammer and tongs competing with each other, but we came together on this set of issues because we felt strongly that what is proposed is not in the interests of our market sectors, the creative industries or the public,” said AP director of International Archives Alwyn Lindsey.

“We create content because we are paid for it,” Lindsey said.

“It’s a simple deal; if you want to use our content you have to pay a licence fee. The proposals in the Hargreaves Review could lead to scenarios where that wouldn’t happen.

“If we deprive news agencies of licencing revenue it impacts their ability to cover news in the same way.

“We rely almost entirely on licencing to fund what we do and any changes that allow people to use and sell content and not pay for it has to be problematic.”

One of the consortium’s main concerns is that the measures could be passed as secondary legislation.

“We have always felt that that is wrong and legally suspect,” added Lindsey. “There should be proper scrutiny and debate. The current situation is that the minister of the day can widen and narrow copyright law at will, and we think that is wrong.”

Lindsey said the proposals would have “serious” implications for a range of companies.

He warned that content owners could decide not to supply footage to the UK, while footage could also be moved outside the UK to “shelter” it from the legislation.

The consortium’s concerns:

  • The widening of ‘exceptions to copyright’, which allows for content to be used without paying a licence fee, will eradicate many instances where creators can be paid for their work.
  • The shortening of the life of copyright in some circumstances will remove the ability of owners of copyrighted works to be compensated for the commercial use of their property.
  • Extended collective licencing will let third party organisations commercially exploit the copyrighted works of others without their prior consent.