HL Deb 23 July 1970 vol 311 cc1079-81

3.6 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a Bill to amend the Copyright Act 1956. Two years ago I introduced another Bill from another place to amend the Copyright Act 1956 and it later became the Design Copyright Act 1968. I told your Lordships then that the Bill would make a profound impact on the law of copyright and indeed that has proved to be the case. This Bill is an equally short Bill, but I cannot pretend that it is going to make a profound impact on the law of copyright. It is a useful but not a far-reaching Bill. It concerns the Performing Right Tribunal.

Many years ago composers and dramatists felt that it was very difficult to collect royalties on performances of their works, so they banded themselves together into what are referred to in the Copyright Act as licensing bodies. Of these bodies the chief ones are the Performing Right Society and Phonographic Performance Limited. They collect royalties on the part of the copyright owners. Their activities have proved very beneficial to the organisers of concerts and dramatic performances because normally these people now have to deal only with one licensing body and do not have to write to a dozen or so copyright owners in order to have the right to perform these works. Substantially all dramatists and composers belong to one of these bodies.

I should tell your Lordships that there was a striking exception to this. George Bernard Shaw did not belong to any body because he was under the delusion that in normal years, on a very high rate of income, the income tax and surtax paid was more than 20s. in the pound; so he was naturally not very anxious that the Performing Right Society should make him money which he imagined would detract from his total income. But he was an exception, and as I have said practically every dramatist and composer belongs to one of these licensing bodies.

In 1956 Parliament realised that this was a form of monopoly, so it set up the Performing Right Tribunal which had two main functions. The first was that these licensing bodies could submit to the Performing Right Tribunal schemes for the collection of tax in respect of individual types of user. Such types of user would be, for example, cinemas, public houses, theatres and so on. Secondly, the Performing Right Tribunal could entertain applications by individual persons who had been refused licences or had been offered unreasonable terms. And, of course, if one is asked to give an example of an individual who does not fall within the scheme, I think a good one would be the Manx radio station. Apart from the British Broadcasting Corporation, that is the only one legal sound broadcasting station in this country. That would be an example of an independent person asking for a licence.

Since the circumstances in the copyright field are liable to alter radically, Parliament enacted in Section 26 of the 1956 Act that after 15 months or, in the case of a licence which had been granted for less than 15 months, after three months, there can be an application for variation in the terms of a scheme. But no provision at all was made for the variation of orders made on the applications of individual applicants. This seems to be somewhat illogical, in respect of both copyright owners and those who may have taken out licences. It is to achieve the end that all applications and references to the Performing Right Tribunal shall be subject to this provision as to variation that I have brought this Bill before the House to-day.

The Bill is fully supported by the Performing Right Society and by Phonographic Performance Ltd., on behalf of copyright owners, and is also supported by the Music Users' Council, a protection society who look after the interests of the users of copyrights. I commend this Bill to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Cawley.)

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cawley has gone through the history behind this Bill and the Bill itself so admirably and clearly that there is no need for me to say very much more. I should just like to explain the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the Bill, which is the rather strange one that occurs so often at this Box—one of benevolent neutrality, no doubt because Her Majesty's Government are always benevolent, but neutral on this occasion because, although we have no great exception to this Bill, we do not really feel that its provisions are necessary.

Although there is no right of coming back to the Tribunal in the cases mentioned by my noble friend, the Tribunal is able to lay down any conditions it thinks proper to ensure that future changes in the cost of living are reflected in the payments the licensee makes. It is also able, if it thinks fit, to make it a specific condition of a licence that either party may ask for a review after a given period. I should at once make it clear that when the Tribunal makes the pronouncement that either party can come back to it, if it does not make the proviso at the time the licence is granted there is no machinery for the Tribunal to allow them to do so. As I say, we do not think that this power will ever be used. On the other hand, it may well set the minds of the various parties at rest and make them feel that the procedure is fairer to both parties. If my noble friend has convinced your Lordships that there is a case for the Bill, Her Majesty's Government will not seek to dissuade your Lordships from giving it a Second Reading.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Denham for his qualified support and to commend the Bill again to your Lordships.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, as the Statements are not ready yet, because they have not yet been started in another place, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn until 3.35 p.m.

Moved, That the House do now adjourn until 3.35 p.m.—(Viscount Goschen.)

On Question, Motion agreed to and House adjourned during pleasure.

House resumed.