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Artistic Content: Copyright Protection

Volume 802: debated on Monday 2 March 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that United Kingdom creators of artistic content have the same level of copyright protection as those working in the European Union.

My Lords, UK copyright works, such as books, films and music, will continue to be protected in both the EU and the UK because of the UK’s participation in the international treaties on copyright.

My Lords, in contrast to the Government’s present intention not to implement the copyright directive, the Culture Minister, Nigel Adams, said in January:

“It is imperative that we do everything possible to protect our brilliant creators”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/1/20; col. 56WH.]

Does the Minister recognise that creative workers are crucial to the success of the UK’s creative industries; that many rely on payments related to copyright to sustain their careers; and that the new rights in the copyright directive, for which they fought hard to be included, are absolutely essential? These include transparency, contract adjustment and, of course, fair remuneration. Should these not now be introduced in UK law?

As the noble Lord will be aware, the UK has now left the EU and the transition period will end on 31 December. This means that the UK is not required to implement the copyright directive, but the UK has one of the strongest copyright protection frameworks in the world. Many of these are subject to international treaties, which we will continue to be members of. We will continue to value the creative sector; of course its work should be recognised.

My Lords, the creative industries will face major problems when we finally leave Europe. Is the Minister working with the industry to do something about visas, which are a particular problem for travelling artists?

The visa system will be the subject of negotiation. The UK is about to implement a new immigration system, but we will, of course, want to continue to co-operate closely with our friends in the EU on these matters. Artists will continue to want to transfer backwards and forwards for their work.

My Lords, with respect to the Question, will culture, media and arts services be included in future trade deals with the US, with which we already have a close cultural relationship in the performing arts?

As the noble Earl will be aware, most trade deals contain a number of paragraphs on cultural exchanges and creative industries. I am sure that that will be the case with the EU agreement and with the US agreement.

My Lords, with the onward march of the digital revolution and our pre-eminence in artistic areas such as music and arts, copyright is becoming ever more important. Can the Minister give us an assurance that intellectual property has a high priority in policy-making for this Government? However we attack that in any particular trade deal, the overall point is to protect our artistic success and endeavour everywhere.

Of course, my noble friend makes a very important point. As I said earlier, we have one of the strongest copyright protection frameworks in the world. Many of these are subject to international agreements, such as the TRIPS agreement. We will continue to engage in international fora and make sure that artists and creators have protection for their works.

My Lords, a number of different ministries have commented on this, as my noble friend pointed out, including BEIS and DCMS. Am I to conclude from the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, is speaking to this that BEIS will be accountable for this and will be the ministry that makes sure that people—including, I should say, people in my family—who work in this industry get paid? If they do not, they need to know who is accountable.

Yes, BEIS is responsible for intellectual property and copyright, but of course there is considerable input from DCMS concerning the creative industries. DCMS is taking forward a creative industries forum and various round tables with content providers and social media platforms, et cetera. So it lies across the two departments.

Does the Minister agree that unless Article 17 or an equivalent measure is introduced, creative personnel in this country are going to be disadvantaged relative to how they would have been had we stayed in the EU, and certainly in comparison with their counterparts in the EU, which was the basis of the Question? Is this not a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face? Why would we not want to make sure that those who are earning benefits from the cultural industries for this country and for themselves are able to earn, and that their copyrights are not being ripped off by the tech giants, as is currently happening?

We will continue to advocate for the rights of the creative industries. We shall see how the copyright directive is implemented and how the various enforcement regimes within it will work, but of course it is not possible for us to remain part of it, because we will not accept the jurisdiction of the CJEU in these matters. We will see how it works and will continue to keep the matter under review. It is of course a matter for this Parliament to determine how our copyright protection framework goes forward.

My Lords, at a time when royalties are being cut at almost every level—I include the BBC in this—it is more essential than ever that the creators of intellectual property are able to reap some sort of reward. What alarmed me slightly about the Minister’s replies was that he kept using words such as “hope” and “expect”. That is not so good for those of us who have to know that we can pay our bills.

We should be proud in this country: we have one of the strongest copyright protection frameworks in the world, as I said earlier. Many of these matters, as the noble Lord will be aware, are the subject of international agreements and we will continue to engage in those fora to make sure that creators get the value of their works.