February 21, 2008 | Becky Hogge

Fighting copyright term extension: the Home Front

European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy may have surprised us with his rogue call for copyright term extension from Brussels last week, but there are battles to be fought closer to home, too.

On 7 March, a Private Member's Bill proposed by Pete Wishart MP will have its second reading in the House of Commons. It is vital that you write to your MP now to ask him or her to attend the Commons on 7 March and stand up and object to this Bill. If you don't the Bill is likely to pass through to committee stage without debate.

What can you say to persuade your MP to show up to the Commons on a Friday? Perhaps you might point out that all the economic evidence points against term extension. Or that every other UK citizen is expected to contribute to their pension out of income earned in their working life. Or that retrospectively extending copyright term won't encourage Elvis Presley to record any more new tracks. Or that if governments continue to draft intellectual property legislation on behalf of special interest groups, it will only further erode the respect that ordinary citizens have for the letter of the law.

However you choose to pitch it, you should find the ORG briefing pack on copyright term extension useful. And remember to specifically ask your MP to oppose this Bill on 7 March in the House of Commons. Writing to your MP doesn't take long, and we've developed a handy guide to help you get the results you want.

And as for the European front, expect news very soon of how you can get your voice heard as an EU citizen. Together, we can stop copyright term extension, but only if we take action!

Comments (26)

  1. Michael:
    Feb 21, 2008 at 04:05 PM

    Just written to Frank Dobson MP (Holborn & St Pancras) and will update if he responds.

  2. Becky:
    Feb 21, 2008 at 04:36 PM


    Try http://www.writetothem.com - it's an easy interface that lets you write to your MP online, and no need to dust off the quill and inkpot.

    A letter direct from a constituent will always work better than one from ORG - even if it isn't handwritten. At the end of the day, you're the one whose vote your MP wants.

  3. Dynamo_ace:
    Feb 21, 2008 at 05:02 PM

    Thanks, any reason why they need a e-mail address. Do they need to reply by E-mail or by letter?

  4. Dynamo_ace:
    Feb 21, 2008 at 08:23 PM

    I have written to Tom Watson MP (West Bromwich East MP) about this. If anyone wants a copy of the letter for their viewing, let me know.

    Thanks Becky for helping out.

  5. Dynamo_ace:
    Feb 21, 2008 at 03:36 PM

    Is there any way the ORG can pass on letters to MPs on behalf of us? Or do we have to do the mailing ourselves?

    You see i am not good at writing it down (I prefer typing it out) and that's generally the best form of getting a MPs attention apparently.

  6. law.librarians:
    Feb 22, 2008 at 02:21 PM

    [...] pm on February 22, 2008 | # | Tags: copyright, intellectual property, politics, uk The Open Rights Group reports on the second reading of a Private Members Bill that will extend copyright terms to a whopping 95 [...]

  7. Colossal Squid:
    Feb 22, 2008 at 04:37 PM

    Had a quick look on theyworkforyou.com and what did I find about Mr Wishart?
    From the Register Of Members' Interests this little snippet:
    "I receive royalty payments from EMI/Ridge Records for my recorded works with Runrig, with whom I serve as an unremunerated director."
    Cui bono, indeed.

  8. Andrew Sidwell:
    Feb 23, 2008 at 12:35 AM

    I would note that the MP proposing this bill "receive[s] royalty payments from EMI/Ridge Records for [his] recorded works with Runrig", a scottish folk rock band. Their first studio album was 1978, now 30 years ago.

    The Bill is supported by:
    Mr. Ian Cawsey -- who received tickets and hospitality at the Brit Awards 2007 at Earls Court, from the British Phonographic Industry

    Sandra Gidley -- who received two tickets for the Brit Awards 2003 provided by BARD (British Association of Record Distributors).

    Janet Anderson -- two tickets for the MTV European Music Awards 2006 in Copenhagen ..., including flights and accommodation, provided by MTV.

  9. Richard Stallman:
    Feb 25, 2008 at 12:10 AM

    I completely support the call for action in this page, but I would
    like to suggest one further action: reject the term "intellectual
    property", and teach others to reject it too. That term is propaganda
    in favor of bills like this one, and every time we use it, we score
    points for the other side.

    The term also spreads confusion between copyright law and patent law
    (mostly different), between them and trademark law (entirely different),
    between all of them and various other laws. Rather than replacing it with
    another term, we should carefully keep these diverse issues separate.

    See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.html for more explanation.

  10. Andrew Sidwell:
    Feb 25, 2008 at 11:36 AM

    Have mailed Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central). His secretary replied and said the email was receiving attention.

  11. James Barton:
    Feb 25, 2008 at 08:48 AM

    Have mailed Simon Hughes - will come back with any reply received.

  12. Becky:
    Feb 21, 2008 at 05:23 PM


    The site send you an email just before they send off your letter - to stop spammers spamming MPs, I imagine. I have always received responses from my MPs in the post.

    Here's the site's privacy policy:

  13. Who knew? Not 14, but 5 years is the ideal copyright term. « Reasonable Balance:
    Jul 24, 2008 at 04:38 PM

    [...] many, the disparity between the terms for which protection is available to a copyright as compared to a [...]

  14. The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » Term extension Private Members Bill stopped in tracks:
    Mar 07, 2008 at 07:11 PM

    [...] to everyone who wrote to their MPs over the last few weeks to ask them to object to Pete Wishart’s Private Members Bill to [...]

  15. Dynamo_ace:
    Mar 02, 2008 at 03:19 PM

    Or even better shorten them even further. I have a variety of ways of how copyright should be reformed.

    Also, if the tory MP thinks this is just about money, he is mistaken. This is more than just money, this is also about creativity, innovation and most importantly, how much of a bragging right does the owner have. Which can not be unlimited.

    If they want to lead a proper way in copyright, they should look at Japan. Where fandom is encouraged, and though fandom new talent has appeared like for example CLAMP, and Shibntia Ina (A well known cosplayer). But now the anti-pirates want to ruin Japan as well with a similar "coup" they are doing in the UK and France, as if they have already damaged them enough now they want to "blackmail" them. It could dangerously impact the anime industry, half of which is independently produced, and some are even sponsored (the program itself not the slot like here in the UK) by companies of all sizes (One was even sponsored by Sega).

    I could go on about this but lets try to keep to topic. The point is that the USA is no model when it comes to innovation or creativity.

  16. JonRob’s Blog » Blog Archive » Write to them!:
    Feb 26, 2008 at 08:54 PM

    [...] an example of how good this is with respect to campaigning, check out the Open Rights Group blog post about the plans to extend copyright term in the UK (grr). I’d encourage all UK [...]

  17. TedMaul:
    Mar 03, 2008 at 11:44 PM

    Just emailed Oliver Heald (NE Herts), will hopefully get a response tomorrow...

  18. Displacement of Concepts » Blog Archive » The Return of the Copyright Extension:
    Mar 05, 2008 at 09:27 PM

    [...] have the best information in this regard. According to their February 21st (how did I miss this!!) post: European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy may have surprised us with his rogue call for copyright [...]

  19. Jesus Lopez:
    Mar 18, 2008 at 06:41 PM

    One of the things that I do not understand from the people that defends the copyright extension is that it would benefit the author and the society. This is far from the truth. This extention should be seen as an abuse and a serious limitation to culture and free competition.

  20. James SH:
    Mar 01, 2008 at 08:20 PM

    (Alan Duncan is a Conservative MP for the record, sorry not to have made that clear at the top). I thought I'd post part of his email reply as it does give some idea of the Conservative line on this issue. Unfortunately he didn't respond to my point that creators have the same responsibility to provide for their future as anyone else (eg pay into a pension), so the argument of Lonnie Donegan's widow isn't valid.

    Having gone back and read the Culture, Media and Sport report it does seem a bit of a sudden switch:

    'Gowers’ analysis was thorough and in economic terms may be correct. It gives the impression, however, of having been conducted entirely on economic grounds. We strongly believe that copyright represents a moral right of a creator to choose to retain ownership and control of their own intellectual property. We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not.'

    So they are saying economically Gowers is correct but morally incorrect, but then goes on to argue for copyright extension on economic grounds:

    'We recommend that the Government should press the European Commission to bring forward proposals for an extension of copyright term for sound recordings to at least 70 years, to provide reasonable certainty that an artist will be able to derive benefit from a recording throughout his or her lifetime.'

    Personally I think this represents an opportunity for Britain to lead the way, just because other countries have extended copyright does not mean we have to follow, and Britain could reap the benefits of a shorter copyright period (as could artists whose early work enters the public domain, but whose later work remains under copyright.

    As for the problem of longer terms for artists and composers? Just shorten them to 50 years as well!

  21. Dynamo_ace:
    Feb 29, 2008 at 10:56 PM

    I think that would be wise too, James SH. Does anyone also think that the Culture, Media and Sport Report's like the Gowers report was leaned on in some way by the anti-pirates. Me thinks so.

    Judging by the response, it seems the Conservatives are still at crunch point. The rumour is that David Cameron supports the anti-pirates (especially after the visit to the BPI, or should that be BPI Ltd), but George Osborne is well, against the anti-pirates (I won't say pro-pirate or pro-personal use since i don't know.)

    Put it this way, the Conservatives have a choice, they either reform a portion of the tory ideology for the 21st Century or they go on the endangered species list ;)

    Can i also recommend people say which parties these MPs are. For the record, Tom Watson MP is Labour. (And also for the record, no response from him. I have not sent a e-mail yet)

  22. Allan Collicott:
    Mar 15, 2008 at 11:11 AM

    This law extending copyright terms far beyond the fifty year mark is sad reflection on the monopolist control and lobbying power of the few majors, which exert disproportionate influence on the media channels of the UK and further a field. The old arguement that performers will not benefit from further royalites seems a misnomer. Many performers never receive a royalty check due to rights buy-outs in the original contract, and this law serves only to maintain power of influence in the hands of the few. We must also remember the many artists who's works are still under control of copyright, but who will never find themselves promoted by the record companies. Sometimes this work of a significantly higher quality than the ilk of the 'popular performer' will never be heard due to the ideals of marketing principles squeezing those artist from ever being heard. Is it right to withold from subsequent distribution the works of these individuals who deserve at least some element of recognition for their striving to achieve their artistic ideals? In adding extra control into the market (while still wrongly professing the benefits of the free market) we lose the wealth of the collective only for propogation of filtered history and contrived economics. If only the majors were investing in new music, and I hope for the break-up and dissolution of the major labels in the coming future. They are obviously frightened to compete on a open playing field with independents. I'll be writing to MP's, thats for certain. Will somebody soon post something concerning contacting EU delegates??

  23. Alex:
    Feb 27, 2008 at 07:01 PM

    I've emailed my MP, Evan Harris. Will post any feedback.

  24. Tim Beadle:
    Feb 28, 2008 at 04:28 PM

    I've emailed Don Foster, who I expect will be sympathetic to opposing the bill.

  25. James SH:
    Feb 29, 2008 at 09:52 PM

    I have emailed my MP Alan Duncan, but it doesn't look like he'll be opposing the bill. From his email:

    'Last year the Treasury-commissioned Gowers review consulted widely on
    this issue. The review into intellectual property rights recommended
    that the European Commission should retain the length of protection on
    sound recordings and performers' rights at 50 years. Andrew Gowers'
    report said that protection should not be extended as it would damage
    the UK's trade balance and would provide little benefit to performers,
    consumers or the creative industries.

    However, a recent report into this issue by the Culture, Media and Sport
    Committee reached a very different conclusion and recommended that the
    copyright term should be extended to at least 70 years. The Committee
    concluded that an extension to 70 years would be most appropriate on the
    basis that it would 'provide reasonable certainty that an artist will be
    able to derive benefit from a recording throughout his or her lifetime'.

    Broadly speaking, Conservatives are supportive of the arguments that
    have been put forward in support of an extension of the copyright term.
    We accept that the current copyright term is putting our musicians at a
    disadvantage compared to their counterparts in other countries and
    composers in the UK. Conservatives believe that our music industry
    should have the same sort of protection that countries such as the USA
    and Australia have. We also accept that an extension would reduce the
    unfair disparity with composers and artists (who receive copyright of
    life plus 70 years).

    I appreciate that some, including Andrew Gowers, have questioned whether
    it is in the public interest to extend the copyright term, but I think
    that it is important to remember that the vast majority of musicians are
    not rich celebrities, and royalties are vital for their professional
    income. Furthermore, I think that it is in the public interest for
    there to be adequate copyright protection to ensure the incentives are
    there to encourage creative work.'

    Perhaps a handout repudiating points in the Culture, Media and Sport Report more directly might help?

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