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BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 28 March 2009 James Naughtie interview with Mike Batt

JN: EU governments this week have been trying to find a way to extend the life of the copyright protection enjoyed by musicians and recording artists but they have failed. Mike Batt is the Deputy Chairman of the British Phonographic Industry (the BPI) and he is here also. Of course, the songwriter who gave us ‘Bright Eyes’ and, probably tired of being introduced like this, ‘But Remember You’re A Womble’ – Good Morning. MB: I always shall remember that I am a Womble, indeed, and – Good Morning. JN: What is at stake here – why is it so important?

MB: Well it is very important for artists and copyright holders to be able to hold that copyright for some time. We, I always use the analogy of a house – if you build a house you own it forever. Erm, if you write a song (you) it’s torn from your grip seventy years after your death. JN: MB: JN: Seventy years? Yes, if you write the song. Ah…

MB: But if you record the song – whether it is recorded by a record company and helped by a record company, which we mustn’t forget – but if you, as the artist, record the song it’s wrenched from your grasp into the public domain fifty years after its recording date which means you are probably still if it – let’s say you were as young as twenty or eighteen when it was recorded in 1958 – right now it’s falling out of copyright: just when you are in your seventies. JN: So, if you thought it was your pension, think again.

MB: Absolutely, I mean my friend Bruce Welch is a member of The Shadows. Not, er, y’know – I’m sure he does fine ‘cos he’s done a lot of very good work in his life. He’s written some songs so he’ll have those until [sic] his grandchildren enjoy the income. But his actual recordings are falling out of copyright now and, er, people less well known than him who still survive on the royalties – quite meagre royalties – that they earned in their, that they earned the right to have in their youth, are now losing them. And, and in fact the problem that we’ve got is that the government have been talking one message to the, to the er… community, which is record companies as well as artists, and, I’m afraid, a different one yesterday at the, erm – when the vote was taken they didn’t really move it, shall we say, forward in the right way. JN: Right – what do you want? What do you think the right figure is?

MB: Well, the Americans have 95 years protection, er, while you are, er, y’know not from your death but from the recording date and we would be happy, we’d be delighted with ninety-five – JN: Which would cover most people’s lives, obviously.

MB: Absolutely. And that’s the point… of it. Erm, seventy is, is… would be OK and, in fact, the government – JN: Which is what the government want –

MB: Certainly, Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary, and other members of the government have indicated now that they would support the seventy years. Then, of course, they go and then don’t support it – JN: Well, what happened in Brussels yesterday? Are you clear why this went wrong from your perspective? MB: Well, I mean if… we are still getting conflicting messages. We are told that the government neither voted against it nor for it. But, in fact, by not voting for it they did effectively vote against it. And the reason given for it by John Denham was that, erm, it was insufficiently clear how the monies from an extension would be divided and that it might fall into the dirty rotten hands of the record companies rather than the very, erm, erm, worthy hands of – JN: It would worry you too.

MB: - of the artists. Well, you see, obviously, I run a small record label and I’m an artist: so I can speak for both. And I’m not speaking for the British Phonographic Industry when I speak as a record label owner. But, of course, if you invest - I’m not talking about myself - but, let’s say, a record company, er, even though I speak as an artist… if a record company invests hundreds of thousands of pounds in selling my records doesn’t it earn a right to stand alongside me in the sharing of income on an extension? JN: Keep us in touch with how this develops, Mike Batt, many thanks.

MB:

Thank you very much.

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