Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters



  Composers are also citizens and as such their rights and interests must be both respected and protected.

  In the case of music for the communications and broadcast industries, the creator is almost always an individual freelance professional. Commissioners, on the other hand, are often giant media corporations. Even when SMEs are involved in the form of independent production companies, they will ultimately be providing content for larger companies. Therefore, any new legislation in these areas must acknowledge that the marketplace is inherently unequal in terms of power and influence and should contain adequate safeguards to ensure fair business practices and respect for the rights of the individual creator.

  Excellence will flourish when the creator is placed in an environment where he or she can do the job. This may mean adequate funding for the work required, or simply a sense of fair treatment by the commissioner. A composer whose contribution is valued will produce better work. This is true of all contributors, be they writers, directors or technicians. For the consumer, the proper respect for these roles will be reflected in higher quality programmes.


  The BBC occupies a special place in UK broadcasting. It has a public service remit, while at the same time being the leading player in the market. We feel that the BBC has struggled to establish a clear view of itself during the transition from a protected Reithian world to the competitive and commercial broadcasting environment that exists today. As such, the BBC requires a strong lead from Government.

  The BBC has and should continue to set the standards in broadcasting, not just in terms of programme making, but also as a model for fair business practice; indeed, its funding via the licence fee places an obligation upon the Corporation to do so.

  Due to what it would regard as "commercial realism", the independent sector has for many years taken advantage of the vulnerability of freelance composers to abuse rights granted to creators in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The Government should not put a level of commercial pressure on the BBC that risks it behaving in a similar way. Part of its public service responsibility should be to act like a beacon of good practice in a notoriously unethical industry.

  We believe the presence of a well-funded and healthy public service broadcaster is highly desirable in pluralistic and competitive communications environment and we wholly support the role and public funding of the BBC.


  We have already referred to the temptation for the abuse of individual creators due to the inherent inequality of the marketplace. This fact will not change, but creators can be protected if any new legislation recognises the dangers and endeavours to strengthen safeguards, rather than throwing open the doors by advancing further down the road of deregulation.

  Cross-media ownership creates further risks for the fair treatment of creators. For example, if a single corporation owns the commissioning body (the broadcasting company) as well as the rights to the content it transmits (the publishing company), the composer is placed in a weak negotiating position. In the past, publishers who had no link to the commissioner, acted on behalf of their "client" (the composer) to both protect and exploit the work. Owning rights to television and film music has become little more than a risk-free income stream, with little "publishing", in the accepted sense, taking place at all. The existence of giant corporations with an interest in all aspects of the process leads inevitably to music publishing becoming less of a professional service and more simply a method of generating revenue. This is not in the interests of the composer, the value of those rights is explicitly acknowledged in the UK copyright law.

  It can easily become anti-competitive, where only certain composers (ie, those willing to enter into a publishing agreement with the broadcaster/publisher) are "rewarded" with commissions. This is against the interests of not only the wider creative community, but also the consumer/viewer, who may, unbeknown to him, have been denied hearing the work of the best composer for the programme or film.


  Current "fair use" definitions are comparatively thorough and we do not advocate change. Intellectual property issues involve ownership, respect, control of one's creative output and the opportunity for fair remuneration. We refute any suggestion that the defence of IP rights amounts to a restriction on the freedom of the consumer, in the same way that no-one would argue a price ticket limits the right of the consumer to own a pair of shoes.

  We reject the idea that because IP is not a physical manifestation, it is "free". Increased ease of access, particularly with the expansion of the internet, has let to this view being frequently expressed. It is our belief that the rights inherent in the creative material have not been changed in any way by the development of new forms of distribution.

  Just as creators are also consumers, consumers are also creators. The law should protect the interests of all creators and encourage an attitude of public respect, regardless of whether the creator is a professional.

  It is entirely proper that the law serves J K Rowling in exactly the same way it does a four-year-old child who paints a picture in school.

5 December 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 1 May 2002