The UK's Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act has been passed, putting controversial new copyright laws regarding what's known as "orphan works" into place for photos put online. The changes mean that if there's no clear identifying meta data in images, anyone can use and sub-license them and the owners have little recourse to complain.
Of course, the internet being what it is and working how it works, copyright watchers are claiming this new law is tantamount to legalising corporate image theft, as it's extremely easy to nick a photo off a social network or image search, then claim it had no identifying data and was therefore considered free to use.
According to legal site Out-Law, those who wish to use these so-called orphan works are expected to perform a "diligent search" in an attempt to find the actual owner, also setting aside a "market rate" payment to be handed over should the original copyright owner realise his work is being used and go through the effort of tracking down the culprit.
Given that meta data is routinely stripped when uploading shots to many social networks, the changes to the law seem designed to make nicking everyone's Instagram photos entirely legal. [The Register]