Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property
Written evidence submitted by B3ta.com
For the last ten years I've co-run a website called B3ta.com which has helped establish the practice of photoshopping images in the UK. Our site does 15 million pages per month and our newsletter is read by over 100,000 people.
B3ta.com is about grassroots creativity, encouraging people to pick up the tools of the internet and use them to make jokes, entertain each other and ultimately help people flower their creativity into new careers. Along the way we've played a part in the careers of generation of people who are the bright new talents in the UK's creative industry. Our alumni include Ben Wheatley, one of the most feted directors of recent years who has just had a hit film with Kill List, music producer Swede Mason who has taken his mash-ups into the top 40 and figures like Joel Veitch, Jonti Picking and Cyriak whose animations have become a mainstay of advertising.
In the ten years of B3ta we have had various problems with lawyers and copyright holders. Unfailingly business uses copyright to suppress criticism and humour, so we're very excited to note the "5.32 Other Copyright Exceptions" section of Professor Ian Hargreaves's Digital Opportunity report, specifically "an exception for parody and pastiche." This would be enlightened policy making.
Letters we've received from copyright owners to shut down humour include:
1. Halifax demanding removal of a joke suggesting there was a double entendre to be found in their slogan, "Who gives you extra?"
2. Hasbro apparently didn't like their Monopoly brand associated with legitimate political criticism of the power of supermarkets within our society. They forced us to remove the below image on copyright grounds.
3. Musician Prince recently went after all his fan sites for copyright reasons. Bizarre behaviour - suing your fans who pay your wages is self-defeating lunacy. We decided to highlight this by asking our members to photoshop Prince, and he of course made us remove all the images again under copyright.
Our point, and it's a very serious one despite the silly images is that those who can afford lawyers use copyright to shut down legitimate criticism. This is wrong in a society that believes in equal rights to all. We full support the proposed government move to allow parody and pastiche to be exempt from copyright. This would be sane and fantastic policy. Do the right thing.
Rob Manuel and the creative B3ta community.
24 October 2011