Copyright Protection - The threat to our creative future

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Of the many frightening and depressing views put forward lately, the most chilling was this extract from Vic Keegan’s Guardian article:

“The new digital giants, Google, YouTube, MySpace, Bebo, Flickr and the rest, are operating in a different space and we will have to adjust… The vital thing is to ensure that the rules are not set by the monolithic players of the old regime.”

This requires creators to become slaves to the new global Internet businesses which are making their founders into powerful billionaires.

Vic Keegan is trying to convince you that we artists want to share our works with the entire planet for free.Let anyone who feels the urge copy it, sell it, change it into something else and pay us nothing. His obsession is that somehow consumers have been victimised and creativity stifled by the music companies of the past 50 years.

Keegan reassures you that the new super giants of The Net are different from the ‘old tyrants’ EMI Universal Sony and Warner. They are benevolent and want freedom for all and that it is right that we artists should be harnessed unpaid to the new democracy of free art for all.

This fashionable view undoubtedly influenced Andrew Gowers who mysteriously found no reason to protect my work for my lifetime.

Patronising and wrong. Even cutting edge creators want to be warm and safe and to care for our children just like anyone else. Second we want our work to be cherished and valued. Finally the consumer shows no sign of being reluctant to pay us provided they see it as good value.

Copyright law was developed in recognition that duplication and broadcast reduces our earning power as live performers. It had nothing to do with ripping off consumers or stifling creativity.

My relationship with a record company is not a pact with the devil. The record company is merely a shop window for my creativity. The partnership which counts is between me and those consumers who want me and others to create for their happiness. If they pay me a little I can carry on giving them good music. If they pay the record company the company can pay for new artists to develop.

Like artists down the ages faced with fascist press telling us how to create and that we should no longer be paid, creators like me feel frightened and cornered. We are naturally anti-establishment so we think if we stand up for record companies and copyright protection we are somehow undermining the peoples’ mandate.

As an artist who has worked free for Chilean Solidarity, Nimibian Freedom Fighters and Artists Against Apartheid I can still feed my children only because Sony were legally required to pay me for my creative contribution to Sade’s ‘Diamond Life’ and other works.

Vic Keegan states that 20 years is long enough for protecting our works. 99% of music businesses are small indie operations built by passionate individuals. If Vic Keegan got his way and copyright term was not extended but reduced music companies, big and small, would collapse. If this happens my income stream will collapse with it and I will have to give up and do something else.

As for new artists? New artists will have to hope they have an Internet Billionaire for a dad.

Robin Millar
Record producer and artist.