The Rights of Consumers and Creators under UK Copyright Law
This was a well attended pictfor event with plenty of useful conversation and comment from both the panel and the audience throughout the evening in The Grand Committee Room.
On the panel we saw:
Simon Indelicate, The Indelicates
Mike Holderness, Chair of the Creators’ Rights Alliance
Gwen Thomas, Consultant to the Association of Photographers
Saskia Walzel, Senior Policy Advocate at Consumer Focus
chaired by Alun Michael MP, PICTFOR.
Saskia Walzel kicked off with some frank observations on the ‘contracts and copyright licensing’ parts of the Hargreaves Review: “he could do more for the moral rights of creators” she said. Her main observation was that in the UK copyright debate the link between remunerating creators properly for their work and supporting innovation and economic growth has not been made. This set the tone for the evening where the conversation became about balancing creators moral rights with the need for remuneration. Saskia expressed sympathy for musicians, writers, film makers and photographers who are forced into unfavourable contracts with intermediaries (big companies); who go on to benefit most in those contracts from existing copyright laws.
Mike Holderness told us that as things stand : “people trust brands” ….and intermediaries promote brands not people. He was sort of repeating Saskia’s message telling us that Hargreaves had done too much for intermediaries and not enough for creators. He asked that creators be given the right to be automatically named and credited for their work. This idea was developed by Gwen Thomas who expanded on what moral rights are for creators adding that meta-tagging photographs so that artists can always be digitally traced back from their copyright work was essential to maintaining these rights. She shared some statistics with us and noted that there was a marked decline in recent years in the number attributions of creative works. Her conclusion was that we must not weaken existing copyright laws further because this will inevitably mean less attributions and weaker creators rights, both moral and contract.
Interestingly the Open Rights Group asked Gwen to expand on what the differences between moral rights and contract rights are: a conversation emerged which touched on a significant digital and copyright dilemma for the AoP. If you are a YouTube user you might recognise the problem. A while back, a YouTube account holder could make a video clip and add music from their own collection on their computer quite easily but the music might not play because YouTube would recognise the copyright of the music by it’s met-data, and block it when added as a sound track. However, more recently YouTube changed their approach to music copyright and sound tracks added to video clips, with a new business model allowing us the public to upload a home video and add copyright music tracks. For example if you uploaded a home made video clip and added to that some of the the Bee Gees music it will be accepted and the video can be played with the Bee Gees music but thou will also be offered the opportunity to buy from the Bee Gees back catalogue (very clever). But what about the creator’s rights? Has the Bee Gees music been corrupted in the process of making the video clip, in the sense that they the Bee Gees may not want to be associated with a homemade Youtube video clip? Or is the remuneration more important than their ‘other’ (moral) rights to say what happens to their music?
Malcolm Hutty, who was in the audience, expanded on the idea of the issue of corrupting creator’s work when he asked Gwen why shouldn’t he be able to cut’n paste a bunch of photographs to make a collage or presentation in PowerPoint with out the permission of the original creators, who may well disagree with his reuse or parody of their work. Furthermore, isn’t it better that the artist is not linked to the new work, with text or meta-tags, as the message is most likely contrary to the creator’s original intentions? Does this corrupt the artist’s body of work in a serious way? Gwen replied by saying that artists should also have the right not to be connected to their work. This left me slightly confused on the moral rights issue which started out as a every clear message from Mike Holderness about meta-tagging. And… could YouTube, do for photographers and film makers what they have done for some musicians?
Simon Indelicate spoke most convincingly about current digital dilemmas. His needs as a musician, he said, are to prioritise art over copyright and to connect with his audience through his songs, which are in fact a cultural collage; drawing from, or actually sampling, well known songs, events and books. See our @pictfor and #pictor for comments. Read more about Consumer’s Rights and Creators Rights in the Consumer Focus blog.