27 April 2015

Greens *Proposing* Copyright Carnage

There have been angry responses on Twitter, discussion on Facebook and comments on news media articles to the Green Party's proposed overhaul of Copyright, particularly its stating that it wants to cut the copyright period to 14 years (it is unclear whether this is from the inception of the copyright, or from the death of its creator). For an overview, and picked for ease, see items in the Telegraph and in the Guardian, and on the website of the Society of Authors.

Currently, copyright in the intellectual property of the written word, and other (if not all) creative endeavours, is 70 years after the death of the author/creator.

After hearing the outcry, some members of the Green Party seem to be distancing themselves, saying that what follows is not policy and is only for consideration and part of a set of long-term aims which are subject to change.

Rubbish. What follows is copy and pasted from its POLICY PAGE http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ec.html
I have changed the font to green to separate it from my own text.

Intellectual Property

Background

EC1000 The term intellectual property covers a number of different areas, such as cultural products (see EC1011 below), software, physical inventions, drugs and natural entities protected by different means such as copyright, patents and trademarks. There are differences within and between these areas, and there can be no single intellectual property policy. The crucial balance in policy is between ensuring that there is adequate funding and incentive for innovation for socially and environmentally valuable activity and encouraging the widest possible sharing of these rights, which are public goods.

Policy

EC1010 Our general presumption is to encourage the Green value of greater sharing and to make it more difficult to obtain patents and similar forms of protection than at present. Specific policies are below.
EC1011 On cultural products (literature, music, film, paintings etc), our general policy is to expand the area of cultural activity, that is ways that culture can be consumed, produced, and shared, reduce the role of the market and encourage smaller and more local cultural enterprise (see CMS200 onwards). Specifically we will
  1. introduce a Citizen’s Income (see EC730), which will allow many more people to participate in cultural creation;
  2. introduce generally shorter copyright terms, with a usual maximum of 14 years;
  3. legalise peer to peer copying where it is not done as a business;
  4. liberalise ‘fair use’ policies to operate outside the academic environment, and allow greater development from existing copyright material; and make it impossible to patent broad software and cultural ideas.
There is more to this section, in a long document which can also be downloaded as a pdf, all under the heading "Policy [logo] Green Party". However, don't expect to be able to find this document from its Homepage, or by clicking on its page links. Yes, it is buried.

And does it matter whether it is "policy" or an "aim"? The result for creatives is the same. As I key in this text other writers are fighting the UK government's insistence that it can do nothing to halt the EU VAT debacle. That came into being after "thorough and rigorous consultation", which in reality meant that the micro businesses it is putting or has put out of business since it came online January 2015 found out about it 6 weeks prior to introduction. So do you, dear reader, believe that the same won't happen here? It is, after all, an "aim" strong enough to have been debated and refined in-party and uploaded onto its website under "policy" - all seemingly without thought of or clarification from the very people this will impact. Deja vu.

Also, note above, item "c. legalise peer to peer copying where it is not done as a business;" Is there not one person in its party which owns an income-generating business? Peer-to-peer copying of digital material is the biggest pirate BUSINESS there is. If it wasn't for the content being pirated, none of the income-generating advertisements, to say nothing of the malware/phishing operations integral to many of such sites, would exist.

As you might expect, if you are still with me at this point, as a novelist this will, impact on me. In fact, if the 14 year copyright rule was currently in force I might as well walk into the sea. I answered a comment on Facebook and set the same out here:

A case in point is my Beneath The Shining Mountains (squandered by its original mainstream publisher which kept the publishing rights for 7 years ie half the term the Greens want). It got a new lease of life with ebook self-publishing after I'd wrested back my rights, and is still my biggest seller in the USA. However, it would fall foul of this copyright "aim", being longer than 14 years from first publication. Not only could anyone take my content and put it out under their own name with no redress to me, but any TV, video, gamer or mainstream moviemaker could produce not just an audio-visual rendition of it without my name appearing anywhere, but could also sell that product to any number of distributors, including TV channels people pay to see, and license all manner of merchandising world-wide... all of which they and their intermediaries get paid for, but without me - the originator -  receiving a brass farthing.

Wouldn't happen? Many years ago an American friend of mine wrote a novel set during the time of the American Civil War. It was taken by a mainstream publisher, but like most novels did very little in the way of making a commercial splash. When she got her rights back the novel was offered to a small e-publishing house, taken up by a small independent movie-maker, and... And who knows? It is currently in post-production.

There have been people saying pirating in all its forms is endemic and so what is the point of any type of copyright? Burglary is endemic. Should it, therefore, be made legal? People have collisions in cars every day. Should collisions be made legal, if not mandatory, where anyone can cause serious injury/death/destruction of property/deprivation of livelihood and not face any form of reparation? 

Allow anyone, especially a political party, enough rope and they will hang you before, as the saying goes, they hang themselves.

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