HL Deb 06 November 1980 vol 414 cc1044-7

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is a fact that the video- taping of a BBC programme by a private individual for his own use is a breach of the law of copyright.


My Lords, there is a breach of copyright if, first, the programme which is taped includes copyright material—namely, a literary, dramatic or musical work, a sound recording or a cinematographic film, or if the broadcast is itself of a tape; and, secondly, the private individual making the tape does so without the authority of the copyright owner.


My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that reply I should like to ask him two further questions. His reply seemed to cover the category which I used in my Question of "for his own use". Is my noble friend aware that "for their own use" something like one-quarter of a million owners of video-tape machines are presumably breaking the law unconsciously every day; and would he say how this kind of use squares with the concept of an Englishman's home being his castle, if they are thereby infringing the law?


My Lords, it is true that the technical position is that the owner of one of these machines, recording a programme which is the subject of copyright, should, in fact, get the copyright owner's permission—and that is not necessarily either the BBC or the IBA—before he does it. Palpably, as I think the Whitford Committee saw very clearly, that is an impossibility and perhaps it does not matter very much, so long as the tapes concerned are being used only for private purposes and for the convenience of the house-owner to look at a programme, either again or at a time which is convenient to him.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the law, as he described it in his original Answer, is unenforceable, unenforced and ought to be improved?


My Lords, I believe that from this Box I cannot ask a question back. But the question in my mind is: would my noble friend like to suggest to me how the copyright law, which is a very important law and which works over the whole of the rest of the area, should be made enforceable or how the exception should be made in the area of people's homes? There has been a committee, the Whitford Committee, looking at this and the Government have undertaken to publish a Green Paper at some stage. But perhaps if my noble friend has ideas, he can let me have them.


My Lords, can the noble Lord tell me what position I am in, having shown a video-tape of the New Zealand-Wales match? Am I likely to get a policeman knocking at the door, having already been punished once by the New Zealanders?


My Lords, I think it depends whether you show it to a Welsh audience or a New Zealand audience.


My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister tell me how many prosecutions have taken place in these circumstances?


No, my Lords; but I will let my noble friend know whether any have taken place in relation to use in a home.


My Lords, may I ask whether this applies to a Scotsman's home as well as an Englishman's home?


My Lords, is it not the case that, in any event, a copyright infringement will not establish any right to the uninvited to enter the home of an Englishman, a Welshman or even a Scot?


My Lords, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord is correct.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount consider the problem which arises when people have come around selling these video machines, saying that everything is all right and that there is no law to stop them? Something ought to be done about that.


My Lords, I think it would be quite wrong to forbid—if that is the noble Lord's suggestion— the sale of these machines, which are marvellous machines and which can be used perfectly legally to record the New Zealand-Wales rugby match, which is a live performance, and many other live performances. Personally—I do not know whether I should be saying so—I cannot see, if there is a technical breach of the law in the home in other areas, that it really need concern us in this House very much. What is important—and steps are being taken—is to enforce the copyright laws, if anybody starts using this facility for commercial purposes.


My Lords, could the noble Viscount say whether there is any hope that, if the proceedings of the House are broadcast, those noble Lords who make speeches will be paid performing rights?


My Lords, I do not think that I should answer any more questions!