14 July 2009

UK Border Angst

I had the dubious pleasure of returning to the UK last weekend through East Midlands Airport and had my first taste of the new border security measures which this government belatedly seems to think are necessary (in their words), "to ensure only those eligible to enter the UK do so". On entering the terminal building we were confronted with a long snaking queue of slow moving humanity which was going nowhere fast. I was shocked, dismayed and angry in equal measure. It appeared that this was an exercise in control rather than one of ensuring the integrity of our borders; our passports were scanned and the immigration officer looked at her screen (not so much at me interestingly) to make sure a) I wasn't a wanted criminal, or b) a terrorist, and c) I was a British citizen (entering my own country BTW) and lord knows whatever other information the computer spewed on to its screen. This was Big Brother in action. It seems we are the only nation in the European Union which has such stringent measures in place at their border-last week we crossed between EU countries unchecked, unprocessed, unmolested.

I later read the words on the inside front cover of my passport. It read,
"Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State Requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty, all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary".

How ironic then that the only "hindrance" I discovered on my trip was when I wanted to re-enter my own country! Perhaps the Secretary of State should read his own blurb.

It took over 30 minutes to get through immigration at East Midlands Airport simply because there are not enough desks to process people quickly and efficiently. Perhaps if the government, who seem to be proud of their record on border security (see here) need to spend a bit more money on the infrastructure.

3 July 2009

The National Truss

The National Trust certainly knows how to court controversy. The NT does some great work, and although I rarely if ever pay to enter any of their properties, I am like many others a beneficiary as I walk the well maintained coastal paths, explore the managed woodlands and marsh habitats or wander around the free to enter properties. I always had the impression that the NT was a rather old fashioned organisation, as much preserved in aspic as many of it’s properties, smelling musty like your grandma’s living room and policed by elderly white haired volunteers doing their bit for charity. And yes, let’s not forget the National Trust is a charity. Recently, however, the NT has bared its teeth and begun looking more like a ruthless commercial bank than a charity, and not overly bothered about the ruckus it has caused among the photographic community.

To kick off with, NT Northern Ireland announced a photographic competition and was immediately condemned for including an over-riding rights grabbing clause in the Terms and Conditions; it read,

“If you submit any material to us, you agree to grant The National Trust a perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, non-exclusive licence to use your contribution in all media. This includes the right to copy, edit, publish, grant sub-licences and exercise all other copyright and publicity rights over the material. If you do not want to grant these rights, please do not submit your contribution to us.”
It seems this has now been amended (see here ) , but not before one of the competition’s high profile judges, Simon Norfolk, pulled out after reportedly being “furious” about the National Trusts actions.

Then in April this year the National Trust approached Alamy to request that
all photographs of National Trust properties on the site be removed (except of course those belonging to the National Trust Picture Library-NTPL) siting a bylaw of 1965 which prohibits the taking of photographs for reward. Alamy photographers were contacted by Alan Capel, Head of Content, requesting that photographs of NT properties be reviewed to ensure they were within the “rules”; i.e. full property releases available or taken from public land. My not very extensive portfolio of NT properties (2 to be exact, one reproduced here) took 10 seconds to review and I replied by email that these two were taken from outside the gates at Charlecote Park so were “legal”. It seems this process is now complete and my two images are still there, but it has been reported by Amateur Photographer that 8,000 images have been pulled from the catalogue as a result of the NT’s action.

This is a monumental own goal in my opinion. The NT, although a charity, has to pay its way to be able to continue to do the fine work of preserving and maintaining the fabric of the British countryside and historic properties. But this action is seen by many as greedy, especially given the charitable status of the organisation. The action against Alamy was also seen by some as a protectionist measure to ensure the images in the NT’s own library were protected. It is a shame that the NTPL itself does not play by the rules; the great majority of NTPL’s images on Alamy are shown as “Model Released”, including this one of an “unknown man”. Quite how they managed to get a MR from an unknown man, and one who looks like he may have been dead for quite some time is beyond me.