Does Guernsey Really Want To Become Famous — And Ostracized — For Introducing Image Rights?

from the unintended-consequences dept

Just as the original term of copyright has been constantly extended from the original 14 years in the Statute of Anne, so the the scope of intellectual monopolies has been widened by the introduction of new ways in which people assert ownership of abstractions. Here’s the latest idea: a right to protect your image.

It comes from an unusual quarter: the island of Guernsey, officially “Bailiwick of Guernsey”, one of a group of small islands off the northern coast of France. Despite its geographical location, it is not part of France, or of the UK, and it is not even a member of the European Union. This unique situation perhaps encourages it to try out novel ideas like the proposed law, claimed to be a world first:

Image rights (or the ‘right of publicity’) are generally recognised as the right to control the commercial use of a person’s identity and images associated with that person including distinctive expressions, characteristics or attributes.

The importance and value of those rights have become an increasingly controversial topic, the latest instalment being the UK debate over the role of super injunctions as public figures seek to exercise significant control over the use of their image in the media.

That last paragraph underlines one of the key problems with image rights. Like the UK’s infamous libel laws, such rights might enable the world’s rich and powerful to censor stories that presented them in an unflattering light, by invoking their “image rights”.

The same article quoted above talks about how the “legislation will define the rights of an individual to protect their own image and balance those against the freedom of news reporting and the public interest.” But a new law — especially in completely uncharted areas as here — is likely to require a number of detailed court cases to establish its contours. That’s going to be expensive, and not something that news organizations can lightly undertake, to say nothing of lone bloggers, which gives those with deep pockets a powerful weapon against the media.

The Internet’s global reach means that anything placed online could theoretically be viewed in Guernsey, and might therefore “infringe” on somebody’s image rights there; this could presumably result in local courts applying financial sanctions. The question is, what happens next?

One response might be for most Web sites to attempt to block all access from Guernsey in order to avoid image infringements. That’s likely to be imperfect, but it would be enough to cripple Guernsey’s economy by cutting it off from huge swathes of the Net. Alternatively, other countries might pass legislation that forbids the enforcement of any awards based on image infringement, just as the US did to nullify libel tourism directed against its citizens.

Either way, it’s hard to see much benefit to Guernsey from creating a new monopoly here. If it does, the island runs the risk that it will become isolated in a more modern, and ominous sense: cut off from the Net, and its legal decisions ignored by foreign courts. Neither would be very good for the island’s own image as a modern forum for business.

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Comments on “Does Guernsey Really Want To Become Famous — And Ostracized — For Introducing Image Rights?”

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Call me Al says:


Worth bearing in mind that Guernsey, much like Isle of Man and Jersey, has a strong offshore banking industry and various large companies are registered there for tax purposes. It is therefore the kind of place which has a focus on high net worth individuals and companies as they bring a lot of money onto the island. They are trying to extend the services they offer to those kinds of clients further to build up their legal firms, always with the focus on the wealthy.

If they haven’t yet been isolated due to their banking and companies practices then I’d suspect they aren’t particularly worried about being so due to copyright policies. Of course they could be quite wrong on that.

PaulT (profile) says:


The ACs have recently taken to spamming unrelated threads with things that they imagine are “gotchas”, stories that may undermine some point they imagine is being made somewhere on the site. Of course, they not only fail to state their point or keep comments relevant, but also refuse to actually submit stories to the site, in an attempt to “prove” that Mike “ignores” stories that don’t fit some kind of “agenda” if and when he misses them.

In other words, it has nothing to do with anything, except the desperation of these people to try and pretend they’re in the right, despite all the growing evidence to the contrary.

Anonymous Coward says:


Once most people (It seems) have a taste of the governments Copyright protection, they are all for extending and increasing it. Apparently, the taste is sweet and addicting.
On the flip side, because copyright protections are paid for by the taxes from the public, when does the public get back their investment and get ownership of the previously protected material?
As it seems, never.
What a deal! No wonder I feel ripped off.
I really don’t blame the individual artist. They are addicted to the sweet deal governments world wide give them.
The lawmakers need to be booted out. Every one of them. I really don’t care how much “good” they have done. Until they learn that they are there at the whim of the public, they will work very hard to keep their seat of power and influence. After all, it sure seems to pay very well.

Machin Shin (profile) says:


“The idea seems like a good one.”

This is what I believe is at the root of our governments problem. So many things seem like such great ideas when you just look at them by themselves.

The idea that we should protect children from child molesters is a great thing that very few people will ever argue against when the issue is looked at by itself. As a result everyone will agree to a new law to protect the kids. Then a little later a new law is proposed once again to protect the kids.

Each of these laws when looked at by themselves seem like such great and noble things. The problem is so very few bother to take a step back and look at the entire system. Little by little laws were added, each with their own merit but when placed beside all the others we suddenly have a system that is far to complicated to understand, maintain or ever hope to enforce.

It is time for government to do some house cleaning. Take a step back and look at the system as a whole. Take a look at the laws and toss them replacing the 30-40 laws about something into 1 simple law containing the best of all the little laws.

If they were to do this then we would come out with a clear system of government. There would no longer be the rampant cheating of the system. It would close the loopholes and make it possible to actually enforce the things that truly matter.

alanbleiweiss (profile) says:

my ugly face likes this one

Given how I hate every photo ever taken of me during the past several years, I’m going to have to say I kind of like this one. It would let me tell my employer, the DMV, and a host of other entities that no, they can’t use my photo. that they’ll have to come up with some other way to validate that I am who I say I am for my ID card or license! 🙂 #TOTALWIN

Niall (profile) says:

How close will this go?

So how closely like you will be ‘your image’? What happens when you look like a relative, or even worse, a non-relative? Will your evil twin have full control over your likeness? Will your parents sue you for ‘copying’ elements of their likeness when you procreate? If I find an ‘image’ of you on my toast, does that mean you control if I get to eat my toast or not?

Can I charge the government every time they photograph me for security reasons or with a speed-camera? 😉

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