I've called on the Party to urgently review its copyright policy - and it has agreed to do so.
**UPDATED 25TH APRIL**
I met yesterday with Brighton based composers, photographers, musicians, and other creatives to listen to their views about copyright and ways to support their work. As a result of our positive discussion I have called on the Green Party to urgently review its copyright policy. Many of those I met and have been in touch with by email and social media over the last few days recognise the Green Party's strong support for the arts, and I am proud of our commitment to reinstate the arts funding that's been cut by this government. But I think we have got it wrong on copyright and need to think again. I shall be inviting some of Brighton creatives to put their concerns to our next party conference where I am confident we will be able to agree a set of policies that better reflect our commitment to the arts.
Brighton is home to one of the most vibrant creative sectors in the country. It contributes hugely to the city's economic success, as well as being at the heart of our "Brightonness". So making sure the city's artists, writers, film makers, musicians, illustrators and so on are getting the best deal possible when it comes to intellectual property rights is a priority for me.
At present many creators are in a stranglehold from our copyright laws, which see big corporation control the rights to work for eg 70 years after the creator dies in the case of literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works. Some years ago I worked with artists like Billy Bragg to challenge the way that music corporations take a huge cut of royalties, leaving only leftovers for the artists. We wanted to try and return copyright to the artists it's supposed to benefit.
There's been some concern expressed in recent days about an old Green Party recommendation that the copyright period be reduced to 14 years - as I understand it that's 14 years after the creator dies, not 14 years from the point at which their work is first copyrighted (** I have now confirmed that my understanding is correct). The proposal isn't in our general election manifesto because it is just a proposal - not something we want to introduce as a priority in the next 5 years. What is in the manifesto is a commitment to copyright laws that protect creators - fairer, more flexible and shorter. To bring the law up to date to better reflect the demands of the digital age. To increase government arts funding by £500 million a year, helping to keep local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open. And to better support fair pay productions in the arts.
Those commitments involve talking and listening to the creators we most want to support - from the musicians sampling other people's tracks, to the wonderful artists on display at Kollektiv Gallery, whose Director I nominated for a social entrepreneur award. (http://www.kollektivgallery.com/)
So I am issuing an open invitation to any creative people in Brighton to come and meet and talk - to tell me what your concerns are, so that we get it right when we develop our policy further.
I'll be holding a drop in meeting at Brighton Media Centre (15-17 Middle Street) tomorrow (24th April) from 3-4 so please do come along if you have questions, comments or just want to talk about this.
I'm absolutely on your side. Artists and writers have to be able to make a living and fairly benefit from their work. I know that many often live in poverty for years before seeing any financial reward for their work and I would never back any proposal that did not take fair account of that fact. A copyright regime that both supports innovation and ensures people are fairly remunerated for their work is possible if we rebalance the power away from the big corporations and back into the hands of artists.
Painted stones in photo by Kim Bodycombe