April 24, 2015

British Green Party suggests reducing copyright terms; British writers like Philip Pullman not too pleased with British Green Party


greensAre writers a sustainable political constituency capable of effecting, collectively, massive change?

Wait, why are you laughing?

It’s true that writers aren’t nearly as powerful a political force as large, diverse groups like, say, teachers—or the Koch brothers. Still, every once in a while, writers’ outrage makes itself felt, and when it does . . . well, when it does, you generally end up reading about it on MobyLives.

According to the Guardian:

The Green party may be forced to backtrack on its proposals to limit UK copyright terms to 14 years after a howl of protest from prominent writers and artists including Linda Grant, Al Murray and Philip Pullman.

Indeed, according to the party’s website, the Greens “will introduce generally shorter copyright terms, with a usual maximum of 14 years,” and according to their manifesto, they “would [m]ake copyright shorter in length, fair and flexible, and prevent patents applying to software.”

Which is to say that unlike nearly ever scandal on the internet, this one was not caused by misinterpretation, misperception, or straight-up deception. Writers are, after all, a pretty perceptive bunch!

Here are some reactions: 

The Telegraph spoke with Kate Pool, deputy chief executive of the Society of Authors, who told the newspaper:

The creative industries are one of this country’s biggest generators of income and taking away copyright protection will effectively wipe that out. I really struggle to see how the Green Party can think this is a good plan.

She also said a thing about Jane Austen that didn’t totally make sense, but which you’ll need to click through to the Telegraph site to read, because everybody needs clicks. Where did the Green Party get this somewhat unusual idea about fourteen years? The critic John Self, who is right about most things, found the answer:

For more on copyright—and our fraught relationship with it—read Tim Parks’s 2012 essay in the New York Review of Books. And if you’re reading this and are responsible for a party’s political platform and manifesto, please note that you should probably not make writers mad.


Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.