I don't normally post about politics even on social media because like a lot of people I can't stand looking at or hearing most politicians and like a lot of people I'm sick of hearing about the election. So please excuse this lapse.
Some time between drinking champagne on an early morning in May 1997 and the turn of the century, I realised New Labour weren't the party I had wanted to vote for. Some time later, I was watching a party political broadcast by the Green Party. My husband and I looked at each other and said "We should join." We agreed with every single thing in that broadcast.I didn't always agree with everything after that, but I stuck with them. I was glad when they agreed to have a leader, especially when it turned out to be Caroline Lucas, who had the credibility to bring the party into the mainstream. (It’s typical of the party that deciding to have a leader rather than a spokesperson was controversial. And typical of them to go and get a new one when Caroline was doing so well.)
I was a member for a long time, and lapsed rather than left. I intended to vote for them in the election.
Like many people, I take a big-picture view of politics and go for the party that seems to share my values rather than reading the small print. I care about the environment and sustainability and social justice; I’ve campaigned on climate change. I thought the Green Party was on the same side.
I was about to renew my membership when this happened. Someone dug out some small print.
Maybe it was because Shakespeare’s birthday is also Copyright Day. Maybe someone from the Labour Party wanted a weapon against the Greens. Whatever, something turned up on my Facebook from a policy document that is still online.
Cut copyright to 14 years, it said, and (even worse) legalise peer-to-peer sharing. I’m in a Facebook group called Stop Working For Free – writers, photographers, musicians who are finding it increasingly difficult to make a living in the current climate. They weren’t happy.
I don’t know where it started, but the Telegraph and Guardian picked up on it. Then Caroline Lucas stepped in to do a bit of damage limitation in her blog. This actually didn’t help because Caroline said she thought the proposal was 14 years after death (“as I understand it”), while a spokesperson quoted in the Telegraph said 14 years after publication (which would be a disaster). Some of us gave them the benefit of the doubt and said perhaps they hadn’t thought it out properly yet and it’s teething problems on the way to becoming a proper political party.Then a Green Party member called Tom Chance wrote a blog that suggested they actually had thought it out. And if that was supposed to make us all feel better it had the opposite effect. I thought I was reading something from the Pirate Party, not a party that is supposed to be “progressive”. But it turns out the Green Party support the “free culture movement”.
The first reason given for their policy is about encouraging amateur creativity (they want people to “spend their evenings composing silly songs on the guitar”). This seems to ignore the fact that some people do this stuff as professionals.
The second reason is the “free culture” thing. It means giving creators “a time-limited monopoly over their work”, because “we want to be able to use, copy and re-interpret their work freely as soon as we can”.
If this isn’t a disincentive to creativity, nothing is.
People who know more about this than I do have already picked apart many of the factual assertions here. (For example, “moral rights” do exist in the UK.)
Then he goes on to say that copyright should be “just long enough to get optimal returns for society”. That’s chilling.
And returns for the creative? Maybe some money will trickle down from the Arts Council. And if anything’s going to stifle creativity, that’s it.
He ends by affirming on behalf of the Green Party that “we place a high value on the arts”.
But not, apparently, on artists.