Professional photographers fear that the Digital Economy Bill, as outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech, will give members of the public the right to use images for non-commercial reasons for free and without permission.

The government says that the Digital Economy Bill is designed to tackle widespread online copyright infringement in a two-stage process.

The Number 10 website states today: ‘First by making legal action more effective and educating consumers about copyright online. Second through reserve powers, if needed, to introduce technical measures, such as disconnection.’

The Bill would make changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

However, an article by the British Journal of Photography (BJP) claims that changes to the licensing scheme ‘could impact photographers the most, as non-commercial consumers could use images without having to ask for permission or providing payment to the photographer’.

The changes, says the BJP article, are based on proposals set out by the Intellectual Property Office.

Though it adds that ‘fair compensation for rights holders would be required’.

Amateur Photographer understands that the British Photographic Council is expected to discuss the issue at a meeting to be held next week.

Among those attending will be Stewart Gibson, head of Members’ Services at the Bureau of Freelance Photographers.

At the time of writing, Gibson said the implications of the proposals were unclear, but he hopes that the British Photographic Council will issue a unified response on the matter in due course.

He told us that although use of a wedding photographer’s pictures, for example, without consent would deprive the photographer of a re-print fee, the use of images on someone’s personal blog page, say, is ‘probably not going to be a big deal’.

Gibson added: ‘It’s not an ideal situation but there is nothing you can do about it in the internet age.’