Quick alert about the British Library

For speed, I’m giving a link to an explanatory post by Gill Spraggs outlining an attempt to clear a lot of rights for a mass digitisation.  This is of primary interest to any contributors to Spare Rib magazine – but also an example of bad practice that’s of more general copyright interest:

http://blog.authorsrights.org.uk/2013/12/18/beware-the-spare-rib-digitisation-project/

Good behaviour in the shark pool

It hit the news this week that the Weinsteins are suing Time Warner over the Hobbit novels.  Their deal gave them revenue on ‘the film’ but didn’t allow for the possibility of the book being dramatized as three films:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/11/us-timewarner-hobbit-weinstein-idUSBRE9BA17I20131211

Is this rough justice, holding them to a contract that everyone agreed, or should allowances be made for a change of circumstance?  This is one of the issues that keeps me awake at night: the contracts I advise my clients on can only be based on the information available at the time.  You try and provide for anything that might happen in the future, but you can never foresee everything.

This counterpoints with an interesting ruling about behaving fairly over contracts, where there’s a relationship involved:

http://www.harbottle.com/fair-trade-obliged-act-good-faith-performing-contract/

In a sense, it’s also a bit scary to wonder who’s going to rule whether we’ve acted in good faith, but if this means shark-like behaviour is lessened, even agents (as proverbial sharks) must welcome it.

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The state of theatre

MaskExit pursued by George Osborne

A tax break for theatre was an unexpected component of the so-called “autumn statement” or mini-budget yesterday. There will be a consultation next year on corporation tax relief for new commercial theatre productions, including touring versions. The Government said the move recognised “unique value that the theatre sector brings to the UK economy”.

Writers’ Guild general secretary Bernie Corbett commented: “The coalition government has spent the past three years skinning and gutting Arts Council England, so that all subsidised theatre has had to cope with massive cuts, with the knowledge that there is worse to come. Even Little Orphan Annie would choke on the thought that George Osborne has changed his spots.

“In reality, the money that has been taken away from innovative and community-based new writing is to be recycled into big-business theatre, to enable it to compete more ruthlessly with all these awful local reps and studios that have somehow survived (so far). Doubtless it will be eagerly accepted, to the benefit of proprietors and shareholders – at least, until they start to wonder why the supply of great new writing, previously supported by ACE, has begun to dry up.”

If approved, the tax breaks will take effect in April 2015 – one month before the next general election.

 

This interesting take appears on http://writersguild.org.uk/  How can I talk about theatre without inspiring everyone to cut their own throat?

Theatre’s very important for the UK economy because London’s West End is a tourist attraction.  You know what it’s like: shows you can see on Broadway, in Toronto, in Sydney; shows you’ve seen as feature film; revivals and heritage shows.  It’s such big business now that film producers have started to insist on having stage rights too: in their eyes, it’s not just another income stream, but also another form of marketing their film.

Outside the West End, regional theatres and independent producers produce what they can that will attract subsidy or community funding or an Arts Council.  The good news is that lots of ‘real’ theatre is still happening; the bad news is that we’ve got to thank passionate people who get little reward for it.