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Songwriters slam Government Copyright reforms

Tim Ingham
Songwriters slam Government Copyright reforms

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced Copyright reforms designed to bring ‘greater freedom’ to the use of content - but songwriter groups are up in arms over the changes.

New measures include provisions to allow copying of musical works for individuals’ own personal use, parody and for the purposes of quotation - effectively allowing consumers to copy works and replicate them onto different platforms without requiring permission from creators.

These platforms can include MP3s and, significantly, personal Cloud lockers.

Private copying will require no compensation to be given to creators, either from consumers themselves or device manufacturers such as Apple.

The Government said the changes ‘could contribute at least £500m to the UK economy over 10 years, and perhaps much more from reduced costs, increased competition and by making copyright works more valuable’. Previously, Government estimates have said the changes could bring in billions to the UK economy.

But songwriter groups have hit back, calling for an ‘iPod tax’ similar to that seen in European countries - a levy paid by music-playing device manufacturers.

General Secretary of the Musicians Union John Smith said in response: “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.

“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?”

The reforms follow the process of the Hargreaves Review, a formal consultation and numerous discussions with stakeholders and industry representatives.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said:“Making the intellectual property framework fit for the 21st century is not only common sense but good business sense. Bringing the law into line with ordinary people’s reasonable expectations will boost respect for copyright, on which our creative industries rely.

“We feel we have struck the right balance between improving the way consumers benefit from copyright works they have legitimately paid for, boosting business opportunities and protecting the rights of creators.”

In his review of intellectual property and growth, Hargreaves made the case for the UK making greater use of these exceptions.

Sarah Rodgers, BASCA Chairman, said today: "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."

WHAT WILL CHANGE UNDER THE REFORMS:

Private copying - to permit people to copy digital content they have bought onto any medium or device that they own, but strictly for their own personal use such as transferring their music collection or eBooks to their tablet, phone or to a private cloud;

Education - to simplify copyright licensing for the education sector and make it easier for teachers to use copyright materials on interactive whiteboards and similar technology in classrooms and provide access to copyright works over secure networks to support the growing demand for distance learning handouts for students.

Quotation and news reporting - to create a more general permission for quotation of copyright works for any purpose, as long as the use of a particular quotation is “fair dealing” and its source is acknowledged;

Parody, caricature and pastiche - to allow limited copying on a fair dealing basis which would allow genuine parody, but prohibit copying disguised as parody;

Research and private study - to allow sound recordings, films and broadcasts to be copied for non-commercial research and private study purposes without permission from the copyright holder. This includes both user copying and library copying;

Data analytics for non-commercial research - to allow non-commercial researchers to use computers to study published research results and other data without copyright law interfering;

Access for people with disabilities - to allow people with disabilities the right to obtain copyright works in accessible formats where a suitable one is not already on the market;

Archiving and preservation - to allow museums, galleries, libraries and archives to preserve any type of copyright work that is in their permanent collection which cannot readily be replaced; and

Public administration - to widen existing exceptions to enable more public bodies to share proactively third party information online, which would reflect the existing position in relation to the use of paper copies

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Tags: copyright, iPod, Hargreaves, Vince Cable

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