Welcome to the September issue of our monthly public affairs bulletin, BASCA Briefing.
IN THIS BRIEFING —
- Round-Up — BASCA's political agenda
- Comment — What Price Moral Rights?
- Comment — Reaffirming Value
The next four months will prove to be particularly busy for BASCA. Our political agenda is full to the brim and one of the most burning contemporary issues for us is the Hargreaves Review into IP and the proposed economic impact of the recommendations, which have given us serious cause for concern — read more about that below. We also take the opportunity to reinforce our viewpoint on the value of music, something we believe needs to be reiterated at times such as these.
We hope you will find it useful; if you would like any further information, please telephone us on 0207 636 2929 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
ROUND-UP — WHAT TO EXPECT THIS AUTUMN…
Autumn is already shaping up to be a busy time in the BASCA calendar, not least because three of our largest events are taking place — The Gold Badge Awards; Songfest (our event for budding songwriters, now in its second year) and the British Composer Awards, judging for which is well and truly underway. Politically, too, there is plenty to keep us occupied.
At the start of the week we contributed evidence to the BiS Select Committee’s inquiry into the Hargreaves Report via our partner UK Music. You can read more about that below, but suffice to say, we trust that the Committee will urge the government to undertake a robust and rounded impact assessment on the proposals contained within the report.
We look forward to receiving the ‘Initial Code of Obligations’ relating to the Digital Economy Act from Ofcom and, as if that alone had not been a long time coming, we wait with baited breath for the European Commission’s draft legislative instrument on the Collective Management of Rights. Similarly, we have been alerted to the fact that DCMS plans to undertake yet another review of the Licensing Act 2003. Details are so far thin on the ground, but we will once again reinforce our opinion that there should be an exception to live music licensing for venues with a capacity of 200 people or fewer.
Meanwhile, we are in the process of digesting a Green Paper on ‘the online distribution of audiovisual works in the EU: opportunities and challenges towards a digital single market.’ Responses are due on November 18 and we will be working with our partners in ECSA and UK Music to deliver our thoughts and opinions.
In the BASCA Briefing over the next few months we will bring you updates on all of these matters.
COMMENT — What Price Moral Rights?
It is almost four months since the report “Digital Opportunity — A Review of Intellectual Property and Growth” by Ian Hargreaves was published and, whilst we were given the government’s high level response to the Review in August, it is likely to be a little while longer before we know exactly what steps they plan to take to implement his recommendations or indeed exactly which recommendations they will take forward into law.
BASCA believes that there is much in the Review that is positive and forward-thinking but is concerned that some aspects of it appear to be playing to a grandstand who see the rights of authors as, at best, a potential stumbling block on the path to economic growth and, at worst, something that can be sacrificed in order, allegedly, to promote such growth.
We have already commented upon the fact that the premises of Professor Hargreaves’s Review was that “evidence should drive policy” and that throughout the Review he and his team “sought to base judgements on economic evidence”. Over the summer break we have had the chance to consider in detail the “Economic Impact of Recommendations” produced by the Hargreaves team and they do not inspire confidence. To illustrate this let us take a look at the justification for an exception to copyright for parody.
The parody exception is justified by the assumption that it would add between £100m and £600m per annum to the UK economy. The journey to this figure starts by valuing the global entertainment market at $2trillion, a figure taken from a 2010 PwC report entitled “Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2010-14”. They then estimate that the UK’s share of this market could grow by 0.5% - producing the annual growth figure given above.
What they do not explain is how they arrived at this figure or how any parody exception would achieve this. They throw further doubt on the methodology employed by stating that the UK and its comedy output “appear to be losing ground” in the world market — yet they cite no evidence for this assertion, which in the light of PACT figures that sales of UK independent programmes overseas were up by almost a quarter in 2010, seems questionable, to say the least.
The case for a parody exception is, in BASCA’s view, further undermined by the citing of ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and his 12 million album sales to show how parody can boost growth. However they omit to mention that as Mr Yankovic sought and received permission from the copyright owners of the works he parodied, his economic impact was not based on a parody exception.
Notwithstanding the above, BASCA believes that unsubstantiated predictions of growth are not the most worrying thing about the “evidence” adduced to support a parody exception. The “Economic Impact of Recommendations” document baldly states:
“A comedy exception would mean a reduction in the moral rights of content creators”
As we have commented before (BASCA Briefing July 2010) moral rights given to UK creators by the 1988 Copyright, Designs & Patents Act were limited enough (and capable of being waived) which reinforced the impression that the concession to moral rights was one grudgingly given. For many of the composers and songwriters to whom BASCA speaks the right to be identified with their works and to object to derogatory treatment of those works, is as important an incentive to create as the right to remuneration. If the UK government really does want to build a vibrant creative economy it needs to cherish rather than crush the spirit of creativity.
These words were written by the humorist Tom Lehrer in his song “Lobachevsky”
Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize —
Only be sure always to call it please 'research'.”
Without strong protection for creators these words may become more than a humorous song — they may be a vision of the future.
COMMENT — REAFFIRMING VALUE
As we set out the roadmap of consultations and campaigns for the latter part of this year and comment upon the government’s proposed parody exception to copyright and the threat it presents to the erosion of creators’ moral rights, it is appropriate to reaffirm the standpoint from which BASCA approaches its engagement with all things new in the music universe.
That standpoint is, that music has a value for those who create it. This value can be perceived from many perspectives — the intrinsic value of the creation itself which embraces uniqueness, originality and ownership; the value to executors such as musicians, publishers, promoters, record companies and music service providers; and the value to those who wish to enjoy it, reapply it and own a copy of it.
BASCA believes these values need to be recognised, reaffirmed and protected, and rightfully rewarded when others benefit from the music’s use. We will always speak out when the value of music is threatened in whatever context — piracy, commercial competitiveness, new business or legislation.
BASCA exists to provide a place of community for composers and songwriters, to educate and inform its members, and to celebrate the music of all writers. Underpinning all of that aspiration is the solid belief that upholding the value of music is fundamental to a flourishing creative sector.
As Aldous Huxley reputedly said: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” And that’s just one of the many reasons why the value of music is worth protecting.