Please write to your MP now

Copyright change again

THE UK government is having another go at changing copyright law. The Creators' Rights Alliance and its member organisations - including the NUJ - are asking you to write to your MP to stress the importance of copyright to you and thus to your contribution to the economy.

The aptly-titled ERR Bill includes a measure to allow Ministers to change the "exceptions" to copyright - the circumstances in which your work can be used without your permission - with only token Parliamentary scrutiny. And the government tabled late amendments to introduce legislation to enable schemes to be introduced for the use of orphan works, voluntary extended collective licensing and codes of conduct for collecting societies.

A senior civil servant described this to us as "the new legislative process" - acknowledging that it is unusual to bring in such new measures well after the Bill is published.

"Orphan works" are those whose creators cannot be located. "Extended collective licensing" would permit BBC and library archives to be put online without asking individual permission.

When the Bill was receiving its Second Reading in the House of Commons, before going into Committee, John Whittingdale, among other things Chair of the All-Party Writers' Group of MPs, asked: "Does the Secretary of State accept that copyright is the legal expression of intellectual property rights, and is not a regulation? Is he aware of the widespread concern among the creative industries about clause 56, which will allow copyright to be amended by statutory instrument without full parliamentary debate? Will he assure the House that the Government will not change copyright in that way without proper parliamentary scrutiny?"

The ERR Bill contains much else of concern to trades unions and others, in particular changes to employment tribunals. We will have our work cut out to focus parliamentarians' minds on all the relevant parts.

The Creators' Rights Alliance is encouraging authors and performers to send their MPs a letter in general terms, stressing how important copyright is to you making your contribution to the economy. Detailed briefings for them will be produced soon. See the outline letter - and please write in your own terms, and send the letter on paper for maximum impact.

Statute of Anne
Where it all began: the 1710 Statute of Anne, "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the copies of printed books in the authors..." - itself out of copyright, we believe, since 1760 or earlier

Last modified: 11 Aug 2012 - © 2012 contributors
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