Early this year I wrote to my local MP several times about copyright. One letter I wrote was in response to a government inititiative, the Music Manifesto, to give schools more money for music. I put forward the idea that one wonderful way of bringing music into schools was by encouraging more contemporary artists to release their work under Creative Commons licenses that allowed school children to modify and experiment with their work. My letter went as follows:
Dear Ms Griffiths MP, I read with interest today about the Government's new initiative for music in schools, aiming to put more music in more schools. It's a laudable aim that I thoroughly support. However I wonder if the Government isn't perhaps missing one piece of the puzzle? Though the provision of instruments and teaching time in all schools is obviously the most important target, surely access to music for children also depends upon the legal restrictions they face in accessing existing compositions? When children can quote sections of textbooks, but cannot sample, copy or perform certain copyrighted pieces of music, they face barriers that are made all the more considerable because they bar the kinds of music that most children already enjoy (i.e. contemporary works). Whilst the Conservatives mutter about hymns in assemblies, it'd be good to see Labour giving children more opportunities to engage with contemporary music, at the same time as providing the basic necessities such as instruments and teaching time. One way of doing this is to get more music into the public domain, or under copyright licenses that allow more creative freedom. In it's recent position document, the BBC pledged to open up its archives under just this kind of license, giving children and their teachers an enormous resource for bringing contemporary arts into children's lives. I would like to see the Government publicly supporting this initiative, and others like it that give children wider access to our cultural heritage. I would be grateful if you could write on my behalf to the Department of Media, Culture and Sport, expressing your support for the BBC's Creative Archive initiative, emphasising its place in cultural education in our schools. It could go some way towards re-enthusing students who would otherwise be turned off by a necessary focus on older pieces of music. Yours faithfully, Tom Chance
Tessa Jowell from the DMCS never replied - apparently the correspondence went "astray" - but I got a reply yesterday from Lord Sainsbury, that ardent supporter of all things corporate and money making. A "scan" with my camera follows.