Britain's official opposition political party will throw its support behind the industry's quest to extend the term of copyright, the Conservative Party's leader declared today.
Using the platform of the BPI's annual general meeting, David Cameron, member of parliament, rallied the U.K. industry with a dramatic pledge for support.
Addressing the audience at London's Mayfair Hotel, Cameron declared, "I am pleased to announce today that it is Conservative Party policy to support the extension of the copyright term for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years."
He added, "A Conservative government will argue for this in Europe, in order to protect investment in the future of the industry, reward our creative artists and generate more choice for consumers."
A succession of music trade organizations -- including the IFPI, BPI, PPL and BMR -- had petitioned for an extension in the current term of copyright. Those calls, however, struck an obstacle in December 2006 with the publication of the Treasury-commissioned Gowers Review of intellectual property, which recommended to the U.K. government that no changes be made to the copyright term.
The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee later breathed new life into the campaign when it recommended to the U.K. government that the term of copyright be extended to at least 70 years.
Such a move, Cameron said, would be "good for musicians and consumers too. It's good for musicians because it would reduce the disparity between the length given to composers and that granted to producers and performers. That's only fair."
The Gowers report, Cameron told the audience, "rightly disappointed" many in the creative industries by "failing to do much more than "suggest tinkering at the edges."
He added, "Changes at the margins will not be good enough. If we are serious about protecting intellectual property, we need to build a framework that is both flexible and accessible."
Any new legislative framework would need to be flexible enough to reflect the changing ways in which music is listened, but be accessible to smaller firms.
And should the Conservatives win power at the next general election, Cameron promised three courses of action the Conservatives would undertake to combat copyright theft: establish a "proper framework" of intellectual property rights; enforce laws with greater intensity so perpetrators were "brought to book"; and liaise with industry leaders to communicate the message that "buying pirate CDs and illegal downloading of music is wrong."
On the flip side, Cameron said he wanted action from the industry in return for his party's favors. He called on the industry to help rebuild Britain's "broken society" by suggesting better policing of the music content it produces.
"I am calling on you to show leadership, exercise your power responsibly and to use your judgment," he said. He concluded, "I want to see more from you... using the influence you have over young children to help fix our broken society."
Cameron received warm applause following his speech, and early feedback was broadly positive.
Mike Batt, chairman of independent label Dramatico and deputy BPI chairman, later said he was "blown away" by Cameron's comments, while EMI U.K. and Ireland chairman/CEO and BPI chairman Tony Wadsworth noted that Cameron "is definitely understanding some of the issues we are facing as a business."
During Wadsworth's address -- his first since assuming the BPI chairmanship earlier this year -- the British executive urged the industry to work together on finding solutions.
"While things are extremely tough out there, with intense competition from other entertainment products and the continuing problem of piracy and theft, I believe that there is a way through if we take a more holistic view of our situation," he said.
"As an industry, we need to lift our sights above the daily struggle and look outward and ultimately forward. We have to remember that people are consuming more music, in more places, in more ways, than ever before. Consumers still believe in music and so must we."
And in delivering his first speech as BPI CEO, Geoff Taylor described a bright future for the industry. "Like Tony, I am optimistic," he said. Taylor forecast a time when the Internet "will not remain a world in which the vast majority of music consumed is unlicensed and unpaid for, because that is not in the interests of society - not economically, not culturally and not socially. The combination of broader licensing by our industry, a growing partnership with ISPs, action by government and continuing consumer education will mean that music will prosper in the digital age like never before."
During the formal part of proceedings, members voted to change the trade organization's name from the British Phonographic Industry Limited to the British Recorded Music Industry Limited.