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House of Lords

Tuesday, 23rd March 1999.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Lincoln.

Copyright: Sound Recordings

Baroness Hamwee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to reduce the discrepancy between the life of copyright for sound recordings in the United Kingdom (generally life of author plus 50 years) and in the United States (now between life of author plus 70 years and 125 years).

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): My Lords, the sound recording copyright term in the UK is governed by EC law and the UK neither wishes to nor can legislate unilaterally. We see no grounds for an increase, particularly since UK recordings should not be at a disadvantage in the US as we understand that they receive the same terms there as US recordings. To raise the EC term of 50 years from release or making of a recording to US levels would clearly be very difficult since it would mean at least doubling it.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. How do the Government intend to assist the British recording industry, particularly in the era of the Internet when a US licensee of a recording may upload it from the US and download it in the UK, creating income in the US with the UK losing out?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, at first instance we do not understand why UK companies should be at a disadvantage since UK recordings receive the same terms in the US as US recordings. We believe that UK companies should be able to obtain payment through their US licensees for the use of their product in the US such as uploading onto the Internet as the noble Baroness instanced.

Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, can the Minister inform the House what the United Kingdom authorities will do to stop blatant piracy by companies based in the EU which have CDs manufactured in such countries as Croatia?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I am not aware that those products are being manufactured in Croatia under the terms of copyright. If that is the case I shall provide the noble Viscount with an answer. We shall have to study that case. Of course, in this context we are talking about copyright law.

Lord Razzall: My Lords, does the Minister accept that his response to my noble friend is somewhat

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disappointing? Does he also accept that this is a matter of concern to the UK record industry, and will he undertake to look further into it?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, as I said in my Answer, since a UK manufacturer receives the same terms in the US as a US manufacturer I have yet to understand the disadvantage that is put to me. The 50-year law that applies across Europe is a standard that is adopted in most parts of the world. The US applies a different term but it adopts a different principle; namely, the concept of works for hire. Since we do not recognise that concept within our copyright law we are perhaps comparing apples and pears here. I would need to understand much more clearly the real disadvantage that faces UK manufacturers.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, given the Minister's answer, is he prepared to meet representatives of the British recording industry, who may be able in private discussion to explain their concerns, and perhaps expand the debate?

Lord Simon of Highbury: My Lords, I am sure that, as always, the DTI is prepared to take submissions and to be educated. That is very good for it.

Kosovo: OSCE Verification Mission

2.40 p.m.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their reasons for considering the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe the most suitable body for establishing peace in Kosovo.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the OSCE is one of a number of organisations, including the UN and NATO, which have a role to play in establishing a peaceful settlement in Kosovo. The OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission played an important role in reducing tensions on the ground in Kosovo until its withdrawal on 20th March in the face of mounting security problems. The Rambouillet Accords set out the framework of an eventual interim political settlement for Kosovo. As the House will know, US Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke has been involved yesterday and today in a last-minute attempt to get the Yugoslav Government to agree to the accords. The accords envisage the OSCE establishing a mission to implement the civil aspects of this agreement. A NATO-led military implementation force will be required to underpin this agreement given the level of distrust between the two sides and the security situation on the ground.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her complete reply. I add my support to her comments about the bravery of the unarmed OSCE observers in Kosovo who have tried to resolve the conflict there but who have had to be

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withdrawn. I realise that my Question arises at an awkward time as there is to be a Statement later this afternoon on this matter in which doubtless many military questions will be asked and, I hope, answered. Against the very dangerous background at the moment, what continuing role do the Government envisage for international bodies such as the UN and the OSCE in the resolution of the crisis in Kosovo, given that that is within the Serbian borders, and perhaps in other consequent Balkan conflicts, bearing in mind that we do not wish the whole burden in terms of odium and cost of lives and material to fall on just a few NATO members?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a valid point about which the Government have been conscious from the beginning; namely, that the resolution of the situation in Kosovo has to be based on the maximum possible international support and co-operation.

The noble Lord is well aware that the Contact Group includes the United States and Russia as well as NATO members. It has been one of the prime movers in seeking to resolve the situation. We are conscious of the fact that it is not a matter that can be resolved by one, two or a handful of powers. We all have to share responsibility for resolving the issue.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, perhaps we may add our warm tribute from these Benches to the work done by the verifiers. A remarkable degree of courage and common sense has been shown by them.

Can the Minister tell us whether the verifiers' information is being kept carefully in a form which will enable them to return at the first appropriate moment? Can the noble Baroness inform us whether they are being repatriated or kept as a group in readiness for their further usefulness?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the noble Baroness and the House will understand that at the moment everything is in a slight state of freeze. We do not yet know the outcome of Envoy Holbrooke's discussions in Belgrade. However, the KVM, the monitors, have been withdrawn from Kosovo and are at present in Macedonia. At the same time, the NATO extraction force has also been kept there. They are all in Macedonia on standby for whatever is decided is the next appropriate action.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, we understand that air strikes are under consideration. Can the Minister say that the Government will not be a party to, nor support, any proposal to bomb Belgrade?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the House would not expect me to comment on whether, in the

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eventuality that bombing takes place, we would or would not bomb somewhere. I would rather leave that point.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, does the Minister agree that these events may well be turned against ourselves and Ireland if we once lost our veto in the Security Council?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, in my answer to the supplementary question by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I indicated that we would only go forward on the broadest possible international front. Therefore I do not foresee a situation where we shall be isolated, if I understood the noble Earl's question correctly.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, has Milosevic manipulated for his own end the conflict between OSCE principles of self-determination and territorial integrity? If so, what guidelines do the Government advocate on that contradiction?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the Rambouillet Accords respect the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia while providing for greater self-determination for Kosovo. Those accords have been accepted by the Kosovar Albanian leadership.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, do the Government have clear long-term political and military strategies if President Milosevic refuses to back down following a possible NATO campaign of air strikes?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the Contact Group has put forward a long-term and carefully worked out strategy for the future of Kosovo. That is the subject of negotiation in Rambouillet and Paris. It provides in great detail for the future development of Kosovo. It is the long-term strategy for resolving the issue. However, it requires acceptance by both sides. So far only one side has accepted it.

At this precise moment in time, our energy has to be directed towards persuading President Milosevic, Belgrade and the Serbian leadership that the only possible sensible outcome for themselves and their own people, as well as for the future of Kosovo, is to accept the Rambouillet Accords, to allow into Kosovo the force that we think essential to oversee it, and therefore to sign the accords as the Kosovar Albanians have already done.

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