I know this is not a particularly fashionable point of view but unless we want our arts to be sponsored by the state as in the former Soviet Union the folk who produce and present them to the public need to be paid. Maybe not as much as they used to be before the digital age and probably not as much as they would like, but certainly enough to make it worth their while getting up in the morning. Those folk include not just the recording companies who have made a lot of fuss and have made themselves unpopular by suing file sharers but artists, particularly those who are trying to establish themselves.
Now I am normally suspicious of pressure groups. As Adam Smith put it
“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”
But because of the dramatic changes to the economics of the entertainment industry brought about by digitization – namely the facility to make any number of perfect copies of a sound recording, film or just about any other work of art and distribute it around the world instantaneously, I have some sympathy with the Featured Artists’ Coalition which campaigns for performers’ and musicians’ rights. The coalition contains names that even I have heard of and their demands seem eminently reasonable. For instance:
“An agreement by the music industry that artists should receive fair compensation whenever their business partners receive an economic return from the exploitation of the artists’ work.”
“Copyright owners to be obliged to follow a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to the copyrights they control.”
On some issues such as their demand that “rights for performers should be improved to bring them more into line with those granted to authors (songwriters, lyricists and composers”, they are probably pushing at an open door. The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 established for the first time a comprehensive code of legal protection for performances. Those rights have been added to incrementally since 1989. For instance, The Performances (Moral Rights, etc.) Regulations 2006 conferred moral rights on performers and while Gowers was unsympathetic to the idea of extending the term of protection for performances the European Commission certainly has been (see Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive amending Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament an of the Council on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights).