Sunday 25 September 2011

Another Way UK Landowners Can be Cheated Out of More Money by Artefact Hunters

A while back a British metal detectorist was demanding from a blogger a copyright fee for some pictures that he or she had used. The sum requested was surprisingly high for some scrappy artefact shots with poor lighting and no scale. He was demanding £500 each for them, and justifying this by claiming that this was the price he had routinely been getting from magazines for this type of photo.

This raises the question of whether landowners are aware of this when they sign finds agreements with metal detectorists. Most of these documents do not go into much detail about the financial responsibilities of the artefact hunter after he takes the collectables home. Heritage Action has pointed out that these agreements seldom contain clauses concerning division of the profit should a collector subsequently sell an item received as a gift from the landowner (whose property it is). This is significant when a single Roman brooch or buckle is valued in the "what's it worth?" page of metal detecting magazines at several tens of pounds, let a detectorist sell six or eight of them and he can pocket several hundred pounds a sale. Surely it is clear that the landowner should be aware of the profit the detectorist is making on items he took away for next to nothing and their own rights in the matter.

Now an additional factor is added to the equation. If a detectorist who does not sell the finds taken makes photos of them and then charges magazines and others £500 for the use of each one of them, even for non-commercial purposes, then obviously these proceeds should be being split with the landowner too. By such means a landowner somewhere should be getting £250 for each photo of an artefact which appears in a metal detecting magazine or newspaper article, and probably also for each shot of a metal detectorist on his land. Do they? If landowners make so much money from the photographic rights sold by finders, why does this source of income not figure on a single 'model landowners' agreement' published online? Are metal detectorists maintaining a silence about the profits they make in this area in the hope that landowners never find out?

British metal detectorists loudly protest that they are "not in it for the money", but it is quite clear that some of them waste no opportunity to find ways of making money from their hobby, what however is disreputable is when it seems this takes place with the wool being drawn over the eyes of landowners. The more detectorists who try to take advantage of a landowner's ignorance of the true market value of the finds they release and their goodwill, the more suspicious landowners will become towards the motives of the milieu as a whole. Probably with good reason in certain cases.

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