HL Deb 25 March 1963 vol 248 cc4-8

2.47 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mancroft.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AIREDALE in the Chair.]

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

LORD FARINGDON moved, after Clause 3, to insert the following new clause


"A person who knowingly misrepresents that he is authorised by any performer to give consent of behalf of such performer to any act which, but for such consent, would constitute an offence under the principal Act of this Act, and who gives such consent, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds."

The noble Lord said: I can put the intent of this Amendment quite briefly. Your Lordships will be aware that the legislation governing this matter, the Dramatic and Musical Performers' Protection Act, was first passed in 1925. This was followed by a Commission, which reported in 1952. On the basis of their Report amending legislation was introduced into the Copyright Act, 1956; and finally they were all consolidated in the Consumers' Protection Act, 1958. Section 7 of that Act lays down what indeed was first of all recommended by the Copyright Committee: that the fact that there was no reason to doubt at the time of the giving of a consent that the giver was in fact entitled so to give consent, should be a complete defence to any action taken by a performer in respect of a recording, be it on a record or on a film. This Amendment imposes a penalty on anyone who fraudulently represents himself to have a right to give a consent when in fact he does not have it. This is, I suggest, not only a small improvement in our own domestic law but also essential if we are to carry out the object of this Bill, which is to enable us to ratify the Rome Convention. The Rome Convention has had certain words inserted into it—the words "possibility of preventing"—in order that the legal position in certain countries, including this country, should be met.

My advisers inform me that they are very doubtful whether this Bill can operate as intended unless it has this provision which is in my Amendment, because only then shall we be able to have the possibility of preventing unauthorised recordings of performances which, though given in a foreign country, might be recorded here. Therefore, I venture to propose this Amendment, not only as an improvement in the law but, indeed, as an essential part of the operation of this Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 3 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Faringdon.)


I appreciate that there has been some misgiving by performers, in respect of records, films, broadcasts or rebroadcasts for which permission has allegedly been given. I know that the British Actors' Equity Association, in particular, has been concerned about this point which the noble Lord has raised in his Amendment, although I believe that both the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority do not feel very strongly upon it, either one way or the other. What the noble Lord's Amendment would seek to do is to make it a criminal offence for any person knowingly to misrepresent that he is entitled to give such consent on behalf of a performer or performers.

I suspect that the case which the noble Lord has mainly in mind is that of the theatre or the impresario who agrees to the show that is being put on being recorded on the radio or televised without having obtained the performers' agreement and, possibly, even without their knowledge. I see that there is a possibility there, although I think there will be very few cases arising in the conditions which the noble Lord has in mind. This is clearly something which no reputable theatre management would do, though I must admit that a less reputable impresario might do it provided the financial inducement were sufficiently strong.

On the face of it, the noble Lord's Amendment is reasonable, but I would suggest to him that, although it is reasonable, it is not really necessary, and for this reason. I think the offences which he has in mind can be met by the existing law. First, the impresario who received payment on the strength of such misrepresentation—that is, that he was authorised by the performers to give consent on their behalf—would, under the existing law, be guilty of obtaining money by false pretences and an action would undoubtedly lie under that head and would be punishable accordingly. The second point is this. The circumstances in which the impresario would be entitled to consent on behalf of performers to record or broadcast, is something which I should have thought could be incorporated in the contract made between him and the performers, and a breach of that contract would give rise to an action for damages to compensate the performer for any loss he might have suffered. Those struck me as being two good reasons for suggesting to the noble Lord that the difficulties which he envisaged are already met by the existing law.

I am a little reluctant to accept the noble Lord's Amendment, even though he may suggest that by so doing it would clarify and emphasise the existing law—I say that even though I am a little uncertain about his draftsmanship—for quite a different reason. This Bill has a limited scope, and I thought at first when I saw the noble Lord's Amendment that there would be a risk of having to amend the Long Title, but I am assured that that is not so. Nevertheless, there is a serious danger that if we open the scope of this limited Bill, all sorts of well-intentioned people will be able to introduce new ideas for strengthening performers' rights which go right outside the scope of the Bill, which is purely to enable us to ratify the Convention.

What I would suggest to the noble Lord, for his consideration, is this. Perhaps he will be good enough to consult with his friends in the light of what I have said about the existing protection given to them by the Common Law, and see whether they are satisfied that their fears are met. If they are not satisfied, then I am perfectly prepared to try to put down an Amendment myself. The noble Lord's Amendment, if I may say so, needs a little redrafting to meet his point. That I will certainly do. I hope it was only a slip of the tongue when he spoke about the Consumers' Protection Act, 1958, and not the Performers' Protection Act, because that will open an enormous door through which many cart horses could be driven, and I should lose my Bill at an early stage. If the noble Lord is prepared to consult with his friends and see whether their point has already been met, I shall be grateful. If it is not, I will give him an undertaking that I will, with your Lordships' permission, put down a suitable Amendment at a further stage of the Bill for the consideration of the House.


May I say one word to the noble Lord opposite, because Her Majesty's Government gave their blessing to this Bill on the Second Reading in the form it then was? Briefly, we take the view that the noble Lord's Amendment is unnecessary, for the reasons my noble friend has given. We do not like the present drafting, but that, of course, can always be altered. I would repeat my noble friend's word of warning. Supposing the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, wishes to go ahead at a later stage—and, as I say, I think it is unnecessary—drafting may present considerable difficulties. If the drafting is too wide, I am not sure that the blessing of Her Majesty's Government would continue on the Report stage.


May I first of all withdraw, not my Amendment, but the offending word? I am not quite happy about this, because when dealing with foreign performers whose performances are being recorded in this country it seems to me that a middleman of some sort is almost essential and inevitable. Where such a necessity and inevitability exists, I think there is a possibility of fraud. It is against this that I and my friends are anxious to protect performers. However, I cannot possibly quarrel with the extremely generous way in which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has received my Amendment, and I will not press it to a Division. I will rely upon his good offices to reintroduce a better phrased Amendment at a later stage if my friends and I can persuade him that it is necessary. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.


May I correct a slip of the tongue? Of course, there will be no separate Report stage, and I should have referred to the Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining clause agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.

Report received.