April 1995

Government's first copyright climbdown

Copyright Coalition Creates

IN SOME DIALECTS of English, "to create" means to kick up a fuss, and the Creators' Copyright Coalition is moving into gear. And a planned and unwelcome change in copyright law, due to happen last week, has been delayed.

The May 23 meeting at the House of Commons was attended by around 60 people, including a dozen MPs and Peers - not counting the CCC panellist who showed off by having an MP deliver the papers from the statement on media ownership, which was by coincidence happening at the same time.

Working creators spoke powerfully about the issues.

Given the location and MPs' requests in questions for something concrete that they could do now, much of the discussion was on the (on the surface) rather technical matter of a Statutory Instrument amending the 1998 Copyright Act to implement a European Union directive on Rental and Lending Rights. This will not now be presented until the autumn. Martin Brown of Equity attributes this partly to effective lobbying by PAMRA, a nascent Collecting Society for actors, musicians, composers and producers. In the words of the Department of Trade and Industry, "the consultation was, how shall we say this, a very full one, and it's taken longer than expected to consider. We're still hoping to lay the Instrument before the House before the recess - but it probably won't be considered until after the recess." Sounds like a climbdown to us. . .

Edwina Currie, MP and now novelist, questioned CCC attenders closely afterwards - and then wrote to the Minister at Trade and Industry responsible, Ian Taylor. She raised not only the Statutory Instrument, but the question of whether the pressure which publishers are putting on freelances to sign contracts made them "unfair" in the technical and illegal sense.

The DTI replied that "in this case the use of the Director General [of Fair Trading]'s powers are not appropriate."

Publishers should not take too much comfort from this: in the courtly dance of mandarin correspondence such preludes do not necessarily announce the theme of the finale.

Meanwhile in this wider field of creation, Equity has struck a deal with a producer of interactive entertainment of which they're "very proud", having "enabled the producer to move into new medium while coming up with something that's fair to members" and sells only clearly specified rights in their work.

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