Beforehand Robert Ashcroft, PRS for Music’s chief executive, put a few questions to Miller, to explore how the organisation can work more closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the future.
Robert Ashcroft: We are all concerned about the future of the music industry in this country. What do you think the government can do to help the creative industries to grow?
Maria Miller: The creative industries are the fastest growing sector of British industry, and the music industry is a very successful part of that. I think that while the government clearly has a role, the industry has its part to play too. It must ensure it can sustain itself for the future. The government can support your industry, whether that’s through initiatives like the export fund, which we set up last year, or the work of the Arts Council.
The role of government is to ensure that intellectual property is dealt with properly and isn’t undermined. I know there is a great deal of concern at the moment around this. We also need to help ensure exports in this sector are remunerated correctly. This isn’t an issue particular to the music industry – I think remuneration from emerging markets is still quite difficult across the board. So we will always work with UK Trade & Investment to find ways to smooth that out in the future.
RA: By and large, the music industry does not go looking for handouts. What we’re looking for is a framework of law.
MM: That’s why it’s important for us to have Mike Weatherley MP in our team – his hands-on experience and knowledge is vital. We always ensure that the music industry’s thoughts and concerns are at the forefront of our minds.
RA: We very much welcome his contribution and have detected a change in the direction of the breeze just recently. You will appreciate that for a number of years we’ve had the Gower, Hooper and Hargreaves reports and now we have the Copyright Consultation. There is a sense that the very concept of copyright, which has served us since 1710 with the Statute of Anne and has survived all the technological changes since, is itself under attack.
MM: We aren’t convinced there is a huge need for change here. I believe passionately that the creative industries are going to be a growing part of what Britain stands for. It is the fastest growing part of our business sector and music has a critical role to play within that. You can be assured that we don’t want to do anything that would be detrimental to your sector in all its many guises – not just the well known artists but all the songwriters and composers who write the music that makes our films the best in the world and that make our advertising the best in the world.
RA: We certainly welcome your support in this area. We’ve looked at this and see there isn’t one single solution. But one thing that concerns us is consumer awareness of piracy. We’ve put forward a solution we call traffic lights, which highlights the licence status of websites with a green tick or a red cross. The system would inform people at the point of search whether something is legitimate or not. We welcome very much Ed Vaizey’s support for this in parliament. But what else do we need to do to bring this forward from the good idea stage to practical reality?
MM: Clearly it is a good idea and the vast majority of research would suggest that consumers in this country do not want to break the law. Perhaps over time people have become used to accessing music without paying for it and not realising they are actually breaking the law. Peeling these people off is our first job. Then we’ll be left with the hardcore infringers and I’m sure our anti-piracy unit can help us in that respect. With regards to the traffic light system – I think it’s a good way forward but ultimately it’s going to be about working with those search engines and other stakeholders who might be able to amalgamate it.
RA: There’s a big search engine that tends to be a bit resistant to the idea. Is there anything you can do to help?
MM: I have an interest across the board in a number of these issues, particularly with search engines. I have been doing a lot of work with them recently around child abuse and filtering systems. So we have a good working relationship and a good track record of introducing industry-led solutions rather than heavy handed government solutions. So I’m very happy to work with you on this and encourage collaboration with search engines on this matter.