The UK government this morning published its plans to reform British copyright law in response to last year’s Hargreaves Review of intellectual property. In particular, new ‘fair dealing’ exemptions will be introduced, including a ‘private copy right’ without compensation. These measures are likely to be unpopular with much of the music rights and other content industries. Read more about the report here, and responses from the UK music community below…
Musicians’ Union General Secretary John Smith on the proposed private copy right without compensation for rights owners: “While we understand the need for this exception to bring the law into line with consumer behaviour, we feel strongly that the lack of fair compensation will significantly disadvantage creators and performers in relation to the vast majority of their EU counterparts. It is a sobering thought that, despite an outstanding international reputation for British musicians, most MU members earn less than £20,000 a year from their profession. According to PRS for Music, 90% of UK composers earn less than £5,000 from songwriting royalties. Some extra income generated under a fair compensation scheme for format shifting, as happens in Europe, finding its way into the pocket of an individual musician or composer, would be of real significance in this context”.
He continues: “Why would the UK Government want to discriminate against its own creators? Particularly since the creative economy is one of the consistent areas of economic growth. Research commissioned by UK Music earlier this year clearly demonstrates the value of being able to play music copied from CD as a feature on MP3 players, phones and tablets. What we are arguing for is fair compensation for musicians from the device manufacturers. These manufacturers are already paying for patents on each device sold, and yet the act of copying onto these devices the ‘software’ the consumer is most interested in – music – is not currently generating any income for musicians, unless it is through legitimate download purchases. This hardly seems fair – after all, what use is an iPod or an mp3 player without the music?”
British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors Chair Sarah Rodgers, also on the private copy right issue: “Composers and songwriters depend on the protection of copyright to enable them to earn a living from their musical works. Copyright is the legislative framework that for us music writers is the same as being employed – in other words, it’s the way that we get paid for the work that we do. An exception to copyright, without compensation, for us, is employment without payment. The creative economy is not supported by denying income to its workers. This decision makes songwriters and composers vulnerable to erosion of the value of our creative works and what we are able to earn from their use. It is wrong from both a commercial and a moral standpoint and puts us out of step with our European counterparts”.
Not getting drawn into the specifics just yet, the CEO of record labels trade body BPI, Geoff Taylor: “Record labels are digital businesses and want consumers to be free to enjoy their music legally on all their devices. That’s why we have already licensed a range of online storage services from Apple, Google and Amazon amongst others. We support a sensible updating of copyright for the digital age and will look at the detail of government’s [more specific] proposals, to be published next year, to ensure that they support licensing of innovative new services and do not have unintended consequences for the UK’s economically important creative sector”.