The Copyright Bill was debated in the Seanad on Wednesday. An uncontentious Bill, its purpose is to regularise the position as regards the lending of copyright works through the public library system, and to remunerate authors for the lending of their works.
Minister Michael Ahern spoke for the government on the Bill. He told the House that an advisory committee would be established to advise on the implementation of the scheme, and that its members would be appointees of the Minister. However, as has been so often been the case with such boards, it is more likely to be filled with those with political loyalties to honour rather than those with expertise in the field. This is what I told the House:
I am sure the Minister of State will forgive my scepticism regarding his reply. When a Minister or Minister of State – I refer to none in particular – states in the House that he wants flexibility on an appointment, I usually smell a rat. When he claims he does not want a prescriptive clause, I become even more suspicious. There should be a prescriptive right accorded to the Irish Writers’ Union, the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency and others because these bodies are eminently well-qualified and non-political. They should, almost by right, be allowed to participate in the body in question.
Neither the present Government nor any other in the history of this State has a proud record regarding political appointments. The legislation implies the appointees of the Minister rather than those with independent expertise in this area will have the right to be on the advisory board. Having noted similar cases so often, I believe this board will be in danger of becoming another convenient outlet for political patronage.
I do not recognise any sign of the Government being unwilling to make prescriptive appointments in other areas. We have a social partnership industry in this State where the prescriptive rights of trades unionists and employers to various meaningless committees or State boards or agencies that carry overpaid salaries for very little work are almost embedded in the law and regulations.
In respect of the body in question, the Minister of State wants to maintain what he refers to as “flexibility”. It would be far more sensible if this Bill, which is uncontentious politically, allowed those with expertise in this area rather than those who may have political expertise and political loyalties to honour to have rights to sit on the advisory committee.