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'Sir Cliff cost us copyright battle' - Motown boss
Are you optimistic the EU will probably fall in line with the US?
I actually don't think the EU should.
I'm not going to give any ground on people creating the work, but to some extent Gowers has fallen into the view that copyright is "given" to the creator rather than it actually being theirs. I think it would make life a lot easier if it was just standardised, life plus 70 in everything, then everybody would understand it. People don't fully understand what it is. When you have all these different terms, if everything was the same period, with blanket licensing and multiple licensing, that they were harmonised.
To me the most compelling argument I only heard made once was, up at In The City, and it was Ted Carroll from Ace Records talking about the quality of public domain recordings - which are terrible, and put out by really shady characters.
They basically license the top ten BB King tracks, put them out at an inferior standard, and it costs more per track than the stuff that's in copyright [see note]. So people really who care find the masters, put out a lovingly compiled package, liner notes and all the rest of it, and then find people use that and only want the most famous songs. That's what's going to happen in the future.
Again it's one of the flaws in Gowers. He talks about companies sitting on stuff that doesn't get released. But actually, he's facing both ways. He's talking about the past, and in the digital environment that's going to happen less and less, because there's no inherent cost in making the material available. So it's a dead argument.
It's already happening. I used to source records once and naturally you wanted to sell the best stuff, but you couldn't touch these, they were so bad
People just want to get as much money as possible, for as little outlay, and they don't have to answer to anybody even if the artists are still alive. Somebody says, "hold on a minute, that's my work and you've treated it like garbage" - but they can do what they want.
My line has always been that even if you extend copyright it should return to the performers after so many years, so they can do something else with it. The chances are it will go back to a record company - the industry doesn't stand to lose a great deal by it - but at the end the creative should have the right.
In my discussion of Gowers I said I just wanted to talk about terms, internally the players know that's my view, and the IMMF, and we don't cloud the issue by talking about extension.
So tell us about how MusicTank got here...
In the first year it was more of a workshop, but it wasn't working out - we were skirting round people's ideas without treading on anyone's toes. We realised there was a gap for a higher level thinktank drawing on people from outside the industry to see how they see us.
We've been doing that for three years now, and it's been really successful. Thanks to the internet I think, ideas get out and it starts to change thinking. We're becoming a useful neutral outlet for new ideas.
What's the biggest change in those two years?
People have finally realised we have to get together as an industry and have some sort of common voice. This idea of spending all day and all night briefing against each other actually isn't going to work. And we need some things to agree on. People are beginning to realise that we do have to do a deal amongst our selves and carry it forward as a community.
I'm impressed that there's a lot of participation in the digital license talks. But is it ever going to happen?
I think it probably will. We have to make it as simple as possible: simple for intermediate users and end users to understand what they're buying and how the money flows back. But really all that stuff in the middle should be as invisible as possible. We need to thrash those deals out ourselves.
In the meantime, there is this pressure from consumer groups that "we want it now", which is understandable, but at the end of the day I don't see why the creators should lose out. That's why so many people are talking about a blanket license.
There'll be some kind of digital license, whether it's a flat fee I don't know. It'll be harmonised so the consumer knows what they're getting. There's a hell of a long way to go.
But what I can't go along with is the idea that once something is out there people can do what they like with it, change it and so on.