The UK Green Party, with just two weeks to go to the General Election, appears to have screwed its support with one influential constituency, writers and artists, through an ill-founded and poorly discussed policy proposal on copyright terms. The draft commitment to press for a shorter copyright term of just 14 years – versus the current UK norm of 70 years after the death of the author – apparently caught the entire creative community by surprise, and provoked a backlash when it did break cover.
First tweeted by UK author Linda Grant (see the illustration), the Green Party proposal, with “to reduce the role of the market” as one of their broad goals, to “introduce generally shorter copyright terms with a usual maximum of 14 years.” The outcry that greeted these ideas suggested that the Green Party had not exactly engaged in a democratic consultation exercise before introducing the policy, which rather tarnishes their democratic credentials.
The actual status of the proposal has also been unclear. Some Green Party sources referred to it as 14 years after production, while others described it as the producer’s life plus 14 years. And although party officials described it as a proposal rather than a policy, few seem to have been satisfied with that caveat.
Even writers who normally would be against longer copyright terms, and who have been pushing for copyright to be lowered from the UK 70-year norm were infuriated by the idea. In fact, one of its worst effects – far beyond any actual chance of success – could be to win sympathy among writers and creatives for Big Media in its attacks on the public domain. As a self-defeating own goal, it takes some beating.