Dear Frank Dobson,
I recently read with some alarm that the government plans to extend the length of copyrights for recorded music from 50 to 100 years.
Copyright has traditionally been a trade-off; a temporary monopoly given to encourage authors. Such radical extensions of copyright shift the concept towards being an absolute property title. They impoverish the many for the enrichment of a few. Culture as a whole is impoverished, as works deemed unprofitable are buried in corporate vaults, and are illegal to disseminate.
The rationale offered by James Purnell, the minister for Creative Industries, that copyright extension will provide more money for recording companies to invest in new artists is flawed. Recording companies are private businesses, operating primarily for the benefit of their shareholders, rather than charities working for artists. The recording industry has a long history of exploiting artists and consumers alike in variously unethical ways. Additionally, copyright is traditionally a bargain with the public, rather than an absolute property title. As such, this copyright extension is a case of taking from the public to enrich private interests, and will primarily help not artists or the public but a small minority of shareholders.
We have seen, throughout the world, a spate of such extensions and expansions of copyright law, from its traditional, limited scope into a virtually perpetual property title, and consequently a feudalisation of culture. As a consequence, the public domain and free culture is becoming an anachronism, cutting off somewhere in the first half of the 20th century. This transformation of popular culture into private property has grave consequences for us all.
There is a lot of pressure from multinational corporate concerns to pass this outrageous extension of copyright laws. I pray that you will take up my concerns in Parliament, and stand up for public culture and against this power grab.