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by Ben Challis, Barrister-at-law

 

Whenever politicians get excited about something you can bet that legislation will follow. The modern trend for often rushed and poorly drafted legislation sees no sign of slowing down and industries like the music industry which is fragmented into a number of different discrete sectors are often very bad at making their voice heard. Even the well funded record label trade associations (AIM, the BPI and its international counterpart the IFPI) have seen little progress in promoting the extension in the term for the copyright in sound recordings from the current limit of fifty years.

But the new big talking point is, of course, the environment. Whilst some still question the science of climate change, it is becoming apparent that our weather is changing and it is getting difficult to deny that the world is warming up. The Earth’s surface temperature is 0.7 degrees warmer than it was one hundred years ago – and the change is accelerating. The five hottest years on record were all in the last ten years. 2007 had the warmest spring and wettest summer ever – as attendees at Glastonbury, Roskilde, The Glade and T-in-the-Park will attest too and some festivals just got too wet – Fflam, Lovebox Weekender and Wavestock were all cancelled and the Truck Festival rescheduled – whilst in Greece at the same time forest fires raged.

Hang on, this isn’t legal news isn’t it? Well it is and this is becoming an important area of law. Businesses are going to have to get used to the idea that very soon both domestic and European environmental legislation will affect the way they operate. The UK Government and the European Commission are committed to drastic reductions in carbon emissions (the main greenhouse gas) as well as tackling pollution and waste. From simple measure like enforcing recycling (yes, soon there will be fines for individuals failing to recycle) to carbon rationing and carbon trading, the range of legislation will be widespread and possibly draconian.

The UK’s music industry already operates within a regulatory framework. The recently passed Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005gives a local authority powers to improve the environment by tackling litter, nuisance vehicles, fly-tipping, waste and noise. For example fly posting can be prosecuted under the 2005 Act and Environmental Protection Act 1990 and can result in Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for each instance of fly-posting. One local authority ( Camden) went as far as threatening to apply for Anti Social Behaviour Orders against senior record label managers in London in June 2004 for repeatedly arranging flyposting.

Local Authorities also have substantial powers under the Environmental Protection Act 1990and the Town & Country Planning Act 1990to deal with environmental issues. S87 of the Environmental Protection Act deals with littering offences (up to a £2,500 fine) whilst s23 deals with air pollution, s33 with depositing, recovering or disposing of waste without a licence and s33 and 34 with fly-tipping (including tipping offensive materials). The Water Resources Act 1991provides offences connected to polluting controlled waters. Offences under these Acts are serious with fines of up to £20,000 in the Magistrates Courts. Offenders can, in certain circumstances, be imprisoned. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974can also be used to prevent pollution and control hazardous substances and The Hazardous Waste Regulations Act (2005)provides that hazardous waste cannot be sent to landfill with non-hazardous waste. Finally Local Authorities can (and do) use the Licensing Act 2003to impose conditions on event organizers.

The UK government is increasing its policy framework and for once the music industry is ahead of other sectors in being proactive. Website www.agreenerfestival.com which this website supports promotes green issues in the live sector and a new cross industry group called Julie’s Bicycle has been set up with representatives from the record labels, music publishers, live sector, artist managers and music press all involved (see www.juliesbicycle.com). The Group has already set up a research programme with Oxford University to gather data on the environmental impact of the music industry. Julie’s Bicycle have also set up a ‘green’ training programme for small firms (‘Beat the Heat’), a carbon audit service and the Group also hope to engage with the UK Government as it develops its policy framework for environmental protection. There are already financial incentives for all business to act now to reduce their energy use and also their emissions and it is important the music industry gets its ‘house in order’ for the future. But a word of warning – whatever happens we can probably expect a lot more legislation in the UK in the near future and business will need to make sure they can operate within the new frameworks or suffer the (expensive) consequences.

(c) 2007, Ben Challis. All rights reserved.