Photographers have welcomed the axing of a planned controversial amendment to copyright legislation after the House of Commons rushed through the Digital Economy Bill late last night.

The controversy centred on ‘orphan works’, a term that refers to copyrighted materials whose owner cannot be identified or traced.

As we reported last year, professional photographers were concerned that the Digital Economy Bill will give members of the public the right to use images for free and without permission.

Photographers feared that inclusion of Clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill would make it much simpler for images to be used, legally, without the consent of the copyright owner.

Welcoming the decision to drop Clause 43, a spokesman for the campaign group said: ‘The UK Government wanted to introduce a law to allow anyone to use your photographs commercially, or in ways you might not like, without asking first. They have failed.

‘The way is now open for photographers and other creatives to present new thinking, enabling the legitimate use of our genuine orphan works for strictly defined non-commercial “cultural purposes” in a way that will satisfy the needs of the cultural sector, to prevent the future orphaning of our work and to redress defect in current copyright law.’

However, last night it seemed that photographers’ concerns over the implications of the Digital Economy Bill may not be debated in the House of Commons as MPs focussed their attention on other areas of the proposed legislation.

As MPs debated the remaining stages of the bill, Liberal Democrat spokesman for Culture, Media and Sport, Don Foster, voiced concerns that the time spent debating other areas of the bill would leave no time to discuss photographers’ legitimate concerns about ‘orphan works’.

The bill is expected to become law before the General Election.