Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Culture committee demonstrates ignorance of copyright law

MPs on the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee have demonstrated their capture by the recording industry with a call to extend copyright in musical performances. Given my previous encounters with committee chair John Whittingdale MP, this does not surprise me in the least.

The committee's report seriously misconstrues the basis of UK copyright law. The UK-US approach is economic: to incentivise creativity by giving a limited monopoly to creators. The "moral" property right they suggest is the continental European approach; but changing 300 years of UK copyright law to this "moral" basis is a far more radical suggestion than extending the term of performers' rights. As the UK's first copyright law, the Statute of Anne, said in 1710, copyright is granted "for the Encouragement of Learned Men to Compose and Write useful Books" — this basis has not changed. As the Gowers report showed in great detail, there is no economic argument to extend the term of performers' rights, and several arguments to reduce that term.

Besides which: if it's really so important that the rights of songwriters and performers be the same, why haven't they considered reducing the copyright term in music from the excessive 70 years after the death of the writer?

1 comment:

Mark said...

"If a certain measure A is the cause of a loss of one franc to each of a thousand persons, and of a thousand franc gain to one individual, the latter will expend a great deal of energy, whereas the former will resist weakly; and it is likely that, in the end, the person who is attempting to secure the thousand francs via A will be successful."
Economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923)

How many francs does it take to buy the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee these days? No wonder MPs were so keen to exempt themselves from FoI scrutiny.