Standing up for songwriters

Vick Bain BASCAVick Bain, chief executive of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA), tells us why the organisation’s lobbying work is crucial to ensure the rights of music creators are protected and championed.

Our first incarnation dates back to 1944 but as BASCA, we were established in 1998 with a number of aims and objectives. One is to celebrate the excellence of our songwriters and composers, and we will be doing this next year through our annual Ivor Novello Awards. 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the event so it promises to be a big year for us in raising the profile of our members.

Other strands of our remit involve informing and educating our members on issues that can impact them, and offering professional support and practical advice on topics such as the craft of songwriting. Lobbying is also a very important area of our work as the whole industry is regulated and governed by strict laws. We take every chance we can to help ensure those laws, plus the framework and environment of the music industry, are as beneficial as possible for music creators. If we can go out and lobby effectively to get a better deal for them, it can really make an impact.

The legalising of private copying without providing fair compensation for creators is something we’ve been lobbying against for two years, ever since the government announced it would introduce the measure. At every stage – through the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Intellectual Property Office consultation – we’ve been there with written submissions and songwriters to talk about the issues we have with the policy.

We have now launched a legal challenge to the private copying exception and are the named litigants alongside the Musicians’ Union and UK Music. I have not been able to find in our records any evidence of where we’ve done this before and it’s a very strong move. It will take years but we have to make a stand because of the consequences.

Up until 1 October 2014 when the exceptions were implemented, private copying, which is basically having a CD and making a copy for your own use, has been illegal. We give our full backing to the right of consumers to copy for their own private and personal use. However, we also want to make sure that rightsholders are compensated fairly, something which the UK exception fails to do.

Our European brothers and sisters have implemented the exception with appropriate remuneration for songwriters and composers. It’s the absence of this fair compensation which has prompted the launch of the judicial review. It’s taken a lot of time and work behind the scenes so far and will be one of our main priorities in 2015.

We’ve also been doing a great deal of campaigning with PRS for Music as part of the Creator Voice programme. We feel it’s been a hugely successful partnership, helping our members meet politicians and influential policymakers. I’ve found that songwriters and composers that join BASCA are particularly engaged and active, and want to be able to campaign effectively and have a voice. Our collaboration with PRS for Music has been really beneficial, as it has helped us tap into the society’s contacts, setting up meetings with MEPs, dinners at the House of Commons and a coffee morning with the Culture Secretary; they’re able to facilitate these events and we bring along actively engaged and informed songwriters and composers.

These creators are delighted to have the opportunity to put their point across to very influential people. They might not be particularly knowledgeable when it comes to public affairs or law but they are music writing experts and are able to talk about their personal experience. That’s much more authentic than someone who has gone to law school and makes for a really effective lobbying tool. We’re proud to be working alongside them and will continue to support their endeavours as we look forward to a new year and fresh challenges.

basca.org.uk

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