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Creators’ Rights for All

House of Commons meeting 09/05/11

AS WE AWAIT the report of the Hargreaves Review Intellectual Property and Growth, London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists invites members to a debate between 7pm and 9pm on Monday 9 May, in Committee Room 6 at the House of Commons, on possible changes to copyright legislation. What is the sometimes fervid debate over copyright in the internet age really about?

Professor Hargreaves may report as early as the day of our debate.

How should law and practice be revised to maximise the contribution that creativity makes to growth?

The NUJ has long argued that we must return to the original ground for copyright and authors' rights laws: to ensure that the individual authors and performers who are the actual source of creativity are fairly rewarded. Citizens will respect copyright only if they are certain that these individuals are getting a fair share from what is charged by intermediaries such as publishers and broadcasters. Unless they do so, those intermediaries and the much-vaunted "creative economy" are doomed.

Our invited panel includes our host, the Culture Shadow Ivan Lewis MP; the Chair of the Culture Select Committee, John Whittingdale MP; Nicola Solomon, new General Secretary of the Society of Authors; Gwen Thomas for the Association of Photographers; and me, in my rôle as Chair of the Creators' Rights Alliance.

The Creators' Rights Alliance response to Hargreaves argues, with the support of the NUJ, that the debate has been miscast. When practically every child now in school will be a published or "broadcast" author or performer before they can vote, thanks to YouTube™ or NextBigThing™, creators' rights are essential rights for every citizen. The claim that authors' rights are in conflict with "users" falls when users are recognised as authors and performers themselves.

As you probably know, the Hargreaves Review was announced shortly after the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Culture (separately) visited California and came back extolling United States copyright law: particularly the part that allows use of creators' work without permission or payment under a "fair use" doctrine, challengeable only by those who can front up around $1 million to obtain a court ruling. Google, for example, maintains that its scanning of 15 million books, many unauthorised, is "fair use", but felt it worthwhile to offer $125 million in a settlement - rejected by a court last month.

For background please see the Creators' Rights Manifesto and the CRA response to Hargreaves, both at www.creatorsrights.org.uk.

Please arrive in good time for the meeting - 6:30pm would be good - to allow for the likelihood of a long queue to get your grainy portrait taken and your laptop X-rayed. Then inform the nice officer you are headed for the meeting hosted by Ivan Lewis MP for the National Union of Journalists in Committee Room 6 - through Westminster Hall, left into the Lobby and straight across, and up the stairs to the Committee Room corridor.
Last modified: 24 Apr 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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