Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


C.C.T.V. Eye

Manchester band The Get Out Clause has been grabbing news space in recent weeks for their creative approach to living in the modern surveillance state that is the UK.

Being poor musicians with nary a cent to fund a flashy music clip, the band simply set up their gear around the city streets of Manchester and performed for the omnipresent CCTV cameras. Cunning use of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (UK) delivered the requested footage into their hands, which they edited into a clip now doing the rounds of Youtube and various news outlets.

Aside from putting a new spin on the notion of creativity and the 'commons', this raises a few interesting copyright questions. Housemate Abi and I, via our friend Google, did some cursory investigation: according to info on the Office of Public Sector Information site,
'The supply of documents under FOI does not give the person who receives the information an automatic right to re-use the documents without obtaining the consent of the copyright holder.'
This, however, applies to information listed in a publication scheme, and a quick look over the FOI Act itself suggests that it doesn't contain express provisions about copyright in material acquired under the Act.

So does the UK government (or whoever it outsources the CCTV collection to) own the original footage - does that footage even fall under the Copyright Act in the UK?? Does any licence to 'use' the acquired material also include rebroadcasting - and where would fair dealing fit in here? Might a similar film-making method work in Australia (although use of street CCTV is somewhat less prevalent, at least for now)??

All food for thought, especially for those more au fait with UK law than this blogger...

It remains to be seen whether CCTV DIY will take off as something of a trend - if it does, brace yourselves for an onslaught of arty types 'performing' in front of a public wall or train ceiling near you.

CCTV may have more to answer for than we first thought...

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