Thursday, April 23, 2015

Green Party position on Intellectual property

Today there has been a lot of criticism from creatives like writers and photographers against our manifesto point about copyright. I wrote to the Green Party Press Office about it, and they have replied thusly:

“Our manifesto for the next parliament says we would ‘make copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible, and prevent patents applying to software’. We would consult with copyright holders and the general public to establish an appropriate length, but believe copyright terms should be shorter than they are at present in order to reduce restrictions on our shared cultural heritage. Though our long-term vision includes a proposed copyright length of 14 years, we have no plans to implement this in the near future.

As I am a inventor (unsuccessful commercially) I remember being nervous about this policy when it came out years ago, and speaking against it. The rationale sets individual interests against common interest. I am sure that corporations do exploit copyright and patents, but individual inventors and creatives need encouragement. The policy seem insufficiently thought through to me.

As ever, there are two sources to be considered : our massive, 300+ page Policies for Sustainable Society (see 3.1.3 here) being a record of all policy decisions taken at Conference since the 1970s (updated occasionally), and our present Manifesto for the 2015 election (see p61).

The writer of the 2015 manifesto is going to refine the policy at the next Conference. Clearly we need to act to protect the livelihoods of our creatives.

Update: Caroline Lucas clarifies the position.


Fiona Moore said...

This is an utterly wrongheaded policy - many artists/writers etc earn very little, and 14 years is a short time span in a creative career/life. Comments from friends and collegues on Facebook make it clear this is losing the Green Party support - and votes. As a Green Party member I'm ashamed that our policy-makers can be so ignorant about the sector.

Richard Lawson said...

I agree Fiona. It is a shame that it was so ill-thought through. Aimed at big corporations, it has hit the little people that we care about. It will be amended in the next conference. And you can be sure that Caroline and any other MPs we might get elected will not be trying to shorten the copyright period, not after the telling off we have received today from our friends.

Fiona Moore said...

Thanks Richard. That's reassuring, but I think someone needs to say in public, before the election: we've made a mistake here, we'll change the policy at our next conference. (Politicians rarely admit to mistakes, so this is a good chance for the Greens to show we do things differently.)

Cathy Simpson said...

Sadly, plenty of Green Party members are defending the policy - as if creatives ought to feel honoured to be sacrificed for the common good. When I contacted the Party for clarification, all they did was reiterate the business about the 14 years. I've heard conflicting opinions on whether it's 14 years after the death of the creator, or 14 years after publication. It just says 14 years on the website.

The only useful thing to come out of this is that I've been flipping back and forth as to whether to vote Green, or vote tactically to get rid of the current MP. This whole business has decided it for me!

Richard Lawson said...

Hi Cathy, yes, I have challenged Derek Wall on the issue, and he says as an author, he thinks it's great. Well, he has another line of income as a lecturer.

It ir not beyond the wit of policy wonks to get some kind of exemption or reclassification for sole traders, or whatever the word is. Pity we are tangled up at this end when the immense, scandalous matter of patenting genes by corporations goes unnoticed.

Again, I'm sorry, I'm sure it will be rectified at the next Conference, and you can be assured that there is unlikely to be a sudden Green landslide resulting in a Green Government which makes destroying the livelihood of creatives a first 100 day priority.

Fiona Moore said...

Richard, your comment about Green landslides misses the point - the copyright policy is the sort of thing that really riles people.

Now see Caroline Lucas' sensible comment:

Are we really willing to risk our one parliamentary seat for this, and our best voice on climate change? That may sound like an extreme version of tail wagging dog but Brighton is full of people who will be pissed off by the policy.

As I said before, someone from Green HQ needs to make a statement.

Miriam said...

There is clearly a failure to understand current copyright legislation by the Green Party and the views of artists and organisations that have negotiated the rights. An example of this gap in knowledge is the idea of copyright lasting 14 years. Even if this is after death it seems to have been plucked from the air. The current period of time is 70 years. I have willed my copyright to my child.

jj box said...

Hi all.. I agree in principle that this policy is potentially damaging to people already underpaid for their efforts and as such is damaging to consideration for the Green Party's manifesto aims. Yet, surely alongside the other aims of the party and their recognition that ALL people deserve a decent basic income (BI) their intent to establish such and the parties evident respect for the individual, family, community over the corporation and institute.. surely those interested in progressing such aims are of the mindset realising that consideration for such changes in social values and the Green party ethos (as I understand it...) of consideration of the greater good for the greater number is a work in progress that will always require exactly that - to use the word a third time - consideration?