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Friday, 22 February 2008

More copyright please, says SNP MP

The IPKat learns (via Impact and the Open Rights Group) that a British MP has put forward a Private Members' Bill titled "Sound Recordings (Copyright Term Extension) Bill 2007-08", with the apparent aim of "extend[ing] beyond 50 years the copyright term of sound recordings; and for connected purposes". What exactly this would entail is not yet clear, as the bill has not been published. It is, however, due for its second reading in the UK Parliament on 7 March 2008, when we should be able to find out more. This seems to be in line with European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who has recently been reported as saying that he wants the same thing Europe-wide (which is surely the level at which any actual legislation would have to be started these days).

The MP in question is Peter Wishart, who just happens to be an ex-member of the (embarrassingly awful, in this Kat's opinion, but admittedly quite popular) Scottish folk-rock group Runrig, as well as being SNP Member of Parliament for the Perth and Perthshire North constituency. On the latest update of the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests, he states, "I receive royalty payments from EMI/Ridge Records [Runrig's record company] for my recorded works with Runrig, with whom I serve as an unremunerated director. I receive payments for my published works from the Performing Rights Society."

Whilst the IPKat would be very surprised to see Runrig earning any money from royalties relating to their sound recordings in 50 years (although he probably won't be around to see it happen), he can see why Mr Wishart would want as much copyright as he can get his hands on, just in case. Could the hands (or even Hands) of EMI perhaps have had something to do with it too, since they have a much bigger vested interest? Should MPs even be allowed to table Bills where they clearly have something to gain from them being passed?

6 comments:

Gobhicks said...

A tad harsh on Runrig, perhaps, although it is true that their popularity (for popular they were/are, north of the border at least) was built on live performance, and has never translated well to record. Personally, I prefer the Jesus & Mary Chain.

I don't see a problem in MPs tabling bills in which they have a vested interest, as long as their interest is declared. Otherwise they could be hindered in pursuing the legitimate interests of their constituents. Such a bill still needs the support of a majority in the House.

Anonymous said...

Underpinning property rights is the idea of exclusive possession. Does anyone distinguish between differing types of exclusive possession?

I'm talking about using copyright to stop disclosure of documents (perhaps politically sensitive documents) compared to copyright being used to obtain rent from music recordings and such. In the former case exclusive possession is just that, an idea focused around the content of the document and the control of the document. Whereas, there is very little interest in the exclusive possession of the music etc instead there is huge interest in the supposed revenues.

Is anyone doing any academic work in this area? Can anyone point me to appropriate URLs.

Also, does anyone know how the 'revenues lost to downloading' figures are determined? For example, if someone downloads 1,000 CDs at GBP10.00 per CD, is the record industry (or whoever) claiming a revenue loss of GBP 10,000?

Considering revenue loss: has anyone, as a defence, demanded that the plaintiff prove that they have lost revenue due to music downloading? I'm thinking of a scenario that may arise around the paragraph above. Someone gets caught with 1,000 downloaded CDs on their computer. A prosecution is launched on the basis that @ GBP10.00 per CD the defendant has deprived the plaintiff of GBP10,000. In this case, has anyone put up the defence that a) I'm poor and I would have never bought them, so I'm not denying you of any revenue; and, b) since the property is non-tangible, my holding of such is not depriving the plaintiff of the ability to sell it on the open market. Therefore, there is no cause of action.

(I don't know whether or not the defence would get anywhere but I'd be curious to hear if it has been tried or even considered).

Peter Groves said...

I'm not going to comment one way or another on Runrig, not a subject on which I have specialist knowledge, but is it really going to do Mr Wishart or others in the same position much good? At the moment the record company throws him a few crumbs - they may be fairly large crumbs, but they very probably don't come to him because he owns that particular bit of copyright. In due course, sales tail off and the crumbs get smaller and eventually stop coming altogether. The recordings are deleted from the catalogue, but the copyright remains with the record company. What does the typical contract say at this stage? There's no question of the copyright reverting to him, because this was never his in the first place - but does there come a point where the record company generously transfers the copyright to the artist and hands over the masters, so the artist can go off to AngelAir Records (www.angelair.co.uk) - "Where the artist has a voice" - or somewhere similar and get their back catalogue re-released? It seems to me that unless this is how it happens there's little in the proposal for the artist - indeed, the artist can't even wait for the term of protection to expire!

Anonymous said...

The relentless corporate push to extent copyright protection I find appalling. We've lost apprecation of the value of the public domain. Do artists really need the opportunity of enabling one's grandchildren to avoid honest labor as an incentive to create?

Rights? Exclusive property? Copyright is a regulatory scheme to allow certain socially productive creative industries to operate. From that standpoint, copyright shouldn't prevent the disclosure of the contents of a politically sensitive document, and shouldn't allow the unauthorized copying of the content of the music on a CD. It doesn't seem that complicated.

Anonymous said...

"It doesn't seem that complicated."

I'm looking for legal doctrine which does tend to complicate matters especially if there are none present.

Anonymous said...

The Bill has now been published (at the link), but it appears that there was not time for a second reading on Friday.

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