MU and BASCA challenge exception

MU and BASCA challenge exception

Fair compensation. Why it matters.

The Musicians’ Union (MU) and the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) have come out against the Government’s announcement of a private copying exception without fair compensation.

This exception has been triggered in 25 out of 27 European member states – but they have all linked this to some form of compensation for the creative community.

John Smith, MU General Secretary, says:

“While we understand the need for this exception to bring the law into line with consumer behaviour, we feel strongly that the lack of fair compensation will significantly disadvantage creators and performers in relation to the vast majority of their EU counterparts.

“It is a sobering thought that, despite an outstanding international reputation for British musicians, most MU members earn less than £20,000 a year from their profession. According to PRS for Music, 90% of UK composers earn less than £5,000 from songwriting royalties. Some extra income generated under a fair compensation scheme for format shifting, as happens in Europe, finding its way into the pocket of an individual musician or composer, would be of real significance in this context.

“Why would the UK Government want to discriminate against its own creators? Particularly since the creative economy is one of the consistent areas of economic growth.

“The O & O research[i] commissioned by UK Music earlier this year clearly demonstrates the value of being able to play music copied from CD as a feature on MP3 players, phones and tablets. What we are arguing for is fair compensation for musicians from the device manufacturers. These manufacturers are already paying for patents on each device sold, and yet the act of copying onto these devices the ‘software’ the consumer is most interested in – music – is not currently generating any income for musicians, unless it is through legitimate download purchases. This hardly seems fair – after all, what use is an iPod or an mp3 player without the music?”

Sarah Rodgers, BASCA Chairman adds:

“Composers and songwriters depend on the protection of copyright to enable them to earn a living from their musical works.  Copyright is the legislative framework that for us music writers is the same as being employed – in other words, it’s the way that we get paid for the work that we do.  An exception to copyright, without compensation, for us, is employment without payment.  The creative economy is not supported by denying income to its workers. 

“This decision makes songwriters and composers vulnerable to erosion of the value of our creative works and what we are able to earn from their use.  It is wrong from both a commercial and a moral standpoint and puts us out of step with our European counterparts.”


For further details please contact: Keith Ames on

To speak to John Smith, please call Jane Austin on 020 7840 5502

Notes to Editor

The Musicians’ Union was established in 1893 and represents over 30,000 musicians working in all genres of music. As well as negotiating on behalf of its members with all the major employers in the industry, the MU offers a range of services tailored for the self-employed by providing assistance for professional and student musicians of all ages.  More info: 

BASCA, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, is the professional association for music writers of all genres in the UK. With approximately 2,000 members, it is the single voice for British music creators.

[i] See UK Music website for details

Posted: December 20, 2012