The effect of digital on the creative industries means young people expect to access music and e-books for little or no cost, author Philip Pullman has told music licensing agency PPL.
According to the Independent, Pullman, speaking at PPL's a.g.m., said we have “sleepwalked” into a “disaster” where everything is free to take.
“The internet has given us, along with many wonderful things, the ability to steal great quantities of material that used to have to be paid for, to steal it with impunity,” he told the agency, which collects royalties for public performances of music. “That ain’t right.”
The author, who is also president of the Society of Authors, said he met an architecture student who, when playing a song from his laptop, said: “You don’t pay for it. You just take it.” “I pointed out that the musicians made music for a living, and by doing that he was stealing as clearly as if he picked their pockets. I said that if people just helped themselves to my work without bothering to pay I’d soon be living on the streets, and that when he qualified as an architect he would certainly expect people to pay for his work,” he said.
Furthermore, Amazon’s heavy discounting of e-books means young people see books as having no value. “Amazon has done one good thing, which is to make books available to everyone. But they’ve done it at terrible cost to authors by selling books so cheaply. It gives the impression that books don’t cost very much to create.”
The “accountants that run publishing houses” are also responsible, he added, because they say only the bestsellers should be in stock. “Author earnings have gone down dramatically in the last five years. It’s harder for those on modest earnings to scrape together a living.”
Pullman pointed out that children should be taught that content should not be free. “Every child must have the chance to make music as well as listen to it. We need to teach our children that music sounds even better when it’s paid for.”
In April, Pullman criticised the Green Party’s proposal to limit copyright to just 14 years. He said the idea of shortening copyright, which would see authors lose control of their IP during their lifetime, was “daft”.