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Defending Copyright and Performers' Rights

Protecting your work

Intellectual Property (IP) rights are intended to protect creators and performers and help to make their careers viable – and the Government’s IP policy should reflect this first and foremost.

The MU is disappointed that copyright is increasingly being referred to as an impediment to business and growth and we believe that the focus must be brought back to how performers’ rights protect musicians and artists, who would be unable to maintain a career without them. 

The MU therefore lobbies Government to protect these rights on the basis that only a small number of MU members have regular salaries. Most are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), whether they are sole traders or members of a band, and they therefore rely on their copyright and performers’ rights to make a significant part of their income.

In essence, their copyright and related rights are an important part of their ‘product’ and of the diverse income streams that make up their income, and, like any SME they have to protect their product. 

The MU has lobbied for the rights of performers ever since the 1920s. In all this time, we have never once seen a legitimate example of copyright creating a barrier to business and innovation.

Private Copying and Fair Compensation

The Government is currently pushing ahead with introducing a private copying exception without fair compensation. A private copying exception would mean that consumers would, for the first time, legally be able to copy a CD to an MP3 device.

Virtually everyone already does this, and most people aren’t even aware that this is currently an illicit act. We entirely agree that the exception is a good idea – but only if there is accompanying fair compensation. 

The permission for private individuals to make copies of copyrighted material is an “exception” to copyright granted under the European Copyright Directive. EU Member States are free to trigger such exceptions and define their scope.

The format shifting exception has been triggered in 25 out of 27 member states – but they have all linked this to some form of compensation. Typically, it is tightly-drafted - limited to offline copying and allowing individuals to make private copies of legitimately-purchased content for personal use.  

In interpreting the Directive, all 25 states have also determined that, because such copying would conceivably result in “economic harm” to creators, they should be compensated.  As a result, a small levy is applied to certain hardware products that allow copying to take place – this might include mp3 players or CDRs.

This compensation is then distributed to the creative community, including musicians. These levies have not impeded market penetration of such devices and have not meant higher prices for consumers.

We are not proposing an ‘iPod tax’ on consumers. What we are arguing for is fair compensation for musicians from the device manufacturers. These manufacturers are already paying for patents to software developers and the like on each device sold, and yet the act of copying onto these devices the ‘software’ the consumer is most interested in – music - is not currently generating any income for musicians, unless it is through legitimate download purchases.