"As part of the British Black Music Month, in association with University of Westminster’s Centre For Black Music Research, a meeting was held to discuss 300 years of copyright yesterday at the Old Cinema at the University of Westminster. The meeting was ably chaired in his inimitable style by Kwaku who, although apologising for the non-appearance of the UK's brand new Intellectual Property Minister, Baroness Wilcox [How appropriate, says Merpel -- an invisible minister for intangible rights!], did show a powerpoint of other previous worthies who had attended previous similar meetings, including David Lammy, who had also been the ambulance minister at some point in his career - maybe Baroness Wilcox still has that to look forward to, if it is part of the schedule of annual ministerial rotations.Thanks, Anton!
The strong panel included Kienda Hoji (lawyer/head of the University of Westminster commercial music), David Stopps (MMF UK & International copyright & related rights director), Pauline Henry (ex-Chimes singer/IP consultant), Dave Laing (researcher/lecturer) and Ben Challis (lawyer/lecturer). Attendees included the one of the founders of Boney M, the IPO, one of the organisers of the Notting Hill Carnival, assorted music producers and, bringing up the rear, a liberal mixture of lawyers [The Kat notices that it is the mixture which is liberal, not the lawyers ...].
The meeting covered a whistle-stop tour of the history of copyright, copyright developments in the US and Europe contrasted with the UK, the problems associated with illegal downloads (as yet, unsurprisingly, unsolved) and the approach to copyright in China and developing countries, particularly with relevance to sacred music, treatment of melodies versus rhythm and whether communities should be able to own copyright in their music [There's a great issue here concerning evolution of community-owned music: is it an acceptable and normal cultural shift, impermissible infringement, or merely a moral outrage?].
Points of interest for lawyers were debates around how exactly to define a producer or creator with modern methods of creating music, whether there should be a small tariff built into broadband bills to reflect music downloads, whether copyright should only be licensable and not assignable and the nature of moral rights. Although the panel made the point that in the UK, in contrast to other European countries, moral rights could be (and are very frequently) waived in recording artist contracts, this attendee wondered whether this might fall foul of the Unfair Contract Terms Act given the disparity in bargaining powers between the parties [readers' thoughts are welcome] particularly if the artist did not receive independent legal advice. Given the paucity of case law in this area, maybe a test case would be useful, though no volunteers were forthcoming.
Finally, a vote was held on (a) are today's copyright laws robust enough for an internet age? and (b) copyright awareness: have we lost the fight to win the hearts & minds of the youths – tomorrow’s consumers? (overwhelming NO)."