Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tony and Cliff and copyright

From this week's Sunday Times:

Tony Blair is under pressure to account for his conduct after it emerged that he singled out Sir Cliff Richard’s campaign to change copyright laws as a priority for reform.

Richard, who has given Blair and his family free use of his £3m Barbados villa for the past three years, has been lobbying the government to extend the period for which he can earn royalties on his work from the current 50 years.

The Sunday Times has obtained a written record of an internal Labour meeting at which the prime minister sets out his priorities.

At the meeting of the national executive committee on July 19 last year Blair said that despite the “dominating global headlines” and recent terror attacks, Labour must not lose sight of the domestic agenda.

In the midst of such high-profile issues as the liberalisation of the Post Office and public apathy to elections, Blair “addressed concerns” about copyright laws “whereby Cliff Richard and the Rolling Stones only receive 50 years’ protection compared with 70 years in the rest of Europe”, according to one member’s detailed written record.

What a remarkable coincidence!

Tim Worstall has a good article on the Adam Smith Institute blog looking at the principles behind this debate. He writes:
Which brings us to the whole point of copyrights (and patents and so on). They are indeed a monopoly enforced by the government: the question is, do such grants of monopolies increase creative output? If they do, what is the optimal length for them to exist? When a pharmaceutical patent, which might cost $800 million to produce, is protected for 17 years, might not a sound recording be perhaps over-protected at 50 years?
The sad thing is that it is not possible to allow Cliff Richard to keep receiving royalties for "Move It" from 1958, which has some claim to be the great British rock and roll record, and confiscate the proceeds from most of those he has made since.

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