November 1995

Publishers stake their claim

THE PERIODICAL Publishers' Association (PPA) last week released a paper on the copyright issue.

Chief Executive Ian Locks opens thus: "Seldom on the PPA Board agenda in the last seven years, [copyright] is now a regular item." Leaks of the exact date at which it appeared would be much appreciated.

"The opportunity to recycle information in new forms is a great one," Jacks continues; "Anyone who is not already seriously considering what those opportunities are is certainly well behind the pack."

The position proposed by the PPA is:

  • Copyright protection must be world-wide to be effective
  • Employee rights must be the property of the publisher
  • Moral rights must be negotiable (on the continent of Europe generally they are not - the author continues to have a say
  • Retrieval, storage and transmission of data must all be acts covered by copyright vested in the work
  • The new sui generis rights protecting databases must become universal through adoption in the international copyright treaty, the Berne Convention.

To the first and fourth points, a resounding yes; but the big question is who owns and controls the rights.

This is more than a question of freelances earning a fair living. It's about monopoly control of the new media.

Can the PPA produce any argument, other than the maximisation of its members' profits and cultural clout, for owning employees' rights?

Their point about moral rights reveals the long-term weakness of their position. They want to dig up the foundations of the Berne Convention, to replace them with the aberrant UK/US position, purely for profit and convenience.

Barrister Alistair Kelman proposes that "Employee moral rights should be negotiable under a fair mechanism so that the interests of employer and employee are properly respected. Employees should not be able to hold the employers to ransom regarding non-derogatory alterations to their work."

And as for the last point, do we have a volunteer to go with a fine-tooth comb through the literature on "sui generis database rights"? Because if support for them appears in this list, there has to be something wrong with them...

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