Debating Matters Competition showcase debate: "Copyright Benefits the Arts"

Saturday 31 October, 5.15pm until 6.30pm, Café

Involving sixth form students from two schools experienced in the Academy of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters Competition, the debate will showcase its innovative format with a debate on the role of copyright law.

300 years since the Statute of Anne first enshrined copyright as a concept in UK law, the development of the internet has sharpened the debate on the value of intellectual property. None more so in the field of the arts, where Picasso’s maxim ‘Great artists steal’ has been plagiarised by more than one artist down the years.

In July 2009 Amazon sparked uproar when it remotely deleted thousands of sold copies of 1984 from its users’ new Kindle e-book, on the basis it violated the book’s copyright. JK Rowling and Damien Hirst have both recently come under fire as for suing other artists for plagiarising or mocking their ideas. The Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) argue that such wealthy artists are the exception, and that small royalty payments are often the only way for struggling artists to support themselves.

This year Lord Carter’s long-awaited Digital Britain report has proposed rigorous laws to fight online piracy. It follows shortly after the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property which argued that copyright is needed to ‘incentivise’ creativity. But with more and more artists giving their work away for free online under agreements such as Creative Commons, is this necessarily true? Do we need to defend copyright to allow artists the freedom to flourish, or condemn it for limiting their creativity

FOR: Kings Norton Girls’ School, Birmingham. Teacher: Helen Rickard

AGAINST: Woodhouse College, London. Teacher: Margery Gretton


Cory Doctorow (novelist; co-editor,; author, Content: selected essays on technology, creativity, copyright and the future of the future)

Marcus Lanyon (artist, writer and musician; finalist, Saatchi Gallery & Channel 4’s 4 New Sensations)

Sandy Starr (communications officer, Progress Educational Trust)


Isobel Bates
student, Kings Norton Girls' School

Anna Muncey
student, Kings Norton Girls' School

Joe Edwards
student, Woodhouse College, London

Brook Hewett
student, Woodhouse College, London

Justine Brian
director, Debating Matters Competition

Produced by
Justine Brian director, Debating Matters Competition
Recommended readings
Denying physics won’t save the video stars

Technology is making file sharing easier and easier. It will take more than unfair laws and harsh punishments to stop it.

Cory Doctorow, The Times, 30 October 2009

Shorter copyright would free creativity

If we want to nurture Britain's amazing creative talents then we must have much shorter copyrights to bring into the public domain millions of orphaned books to reduce prices and to enable music, books and films to be enjoyed and reworked by others.

Victor Keegan, Guardian, 7 October 2009

Advantage Google

Three hundred years ago, Daniel Defoe offered a memorable image for the relationship between authors and their work: “A Book is the Author’s Property, ’tis the Child of his Inventions, the Brat of his Brain.”

Lewis Hyde, New York Times, 2 October 2009

Lily Allen: my message for big stars who back piracy...

‘It’s all right for established musicians, but file sharing will strangle new talent’

Lily Allen, The Times, 16 September 2009

Copyright benefits the arts DMC Topic Guide

An article about the recent J.K. Rowling court case reported that ‘Judge Robert Patterson looked a little bemused that a case on copyright law had turned into a discourse on the writer’s art.’ But art’s relationship to both its creator and wider society are at the heart of copyright.

David Bowden, Debating Matters, 2 January 2009

Copyright in a Digital Age, 2 November 2008

Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future

Readers will discover how America chose Happy Meal toys over copyright, why Facebook is taking a faceplant, how the Internet is basically just a giant Xerox machine, why Wikipedia is a poor cousin of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy", and how to enjoy free e-books.

Cory Doctorow, Tachyon Publications, 1 January 2008

Session partners