Rights ranks rearrange

THINGS are changing on the copyright front - some for the better, with widened support for some of our central demands. On 13 March the Creators' Rights Alliance - the CRA, of which the National Union of Journalists is a founder member - co-organised a meeting at the House of Commons with Consumer Focus, the statutory consumer champion, to explore areas of common ground.

The CRA has already noted that in the digital age copyright and the rights to be identified and to defend the integrity of your work - the so-called "moral rights" - are important to every citizen - since before long everyone will be a published or broadcast creator through the likes of Facebook or YouTube.

Creators' and consumers' organisations agree on the need for automatic and enforceable moral rights, particularly creators' right to be identified, and better metadata identifying creators throughout the distribution chain. We are agreed on the importance of addressing problems with contracts - both those between end-users and intermediaries and between creators and intermediaries. And we share an interest in working out the details of economic rights reverting to creators after a certain time or when not exploited.

Separately, the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance stated in its submission to the government's consultation on copyright: "Moral Rights should be unwaivable. The paternity right should be automatic and not have to involve an assertion." And the British Library - one of the bodies most active in pressing for changes to allow it to do more without asking individual creators - notes that "as creators have to assert their moral rights and they can be waived, this in itself may have a causal effect on the number of orphan works. We therefore believe that the government should consider these issues..."

The NUJ has also submitted to Leveson (see here) that journalists having moral rights is essential to ethical and accountable reporting.

The NUJ's submission to the consultation - all 15,000 words - is available at www.londonfreelance.org/ar and summarises the points we have made in an intense round of meetings, including one with the Minister responsible, Baroness Wilcox. The nitty-gritty concerns the conditions that would have to be met before proceeding with proposals for "extended collective licensing". That would allow organisations like the British Library or the BBC that want to put archive material online to pay one cheque to each collecting society for it to distribute to members and non-members alike.

Echoed by many other respondents, the NUJ says that "at the heart of the present consultation... is an economic illiteracy: throughout, income from licensing copyright works is counted as a cost to the economy - whereas fashion design, for example, is counted as income. The NUJ shares the British Copyright Council judgement that this represents an ‘unjustified ideological shift'." And we are working with many others in opposing cuts to income from educational institutions.

The government is due to report on all the submissions in June. Then later - O frabjous joy! - there will be another consultation on detailed proposals to change the law.

Last modified: 04 Apr 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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