Copyright timespan, Self-harming and others

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The Independent Online

It is not unfair that copyright should have a limited timespan

It is not unfair that copyright should have a limited timespan

Sir: I read with interest your article (26 July) on the plight of the British music industry, and the fact that after 50 years material is passing into the public domain by what we are told is a "legal loophole". The British Phonographic Industry's Peter Jamieson tells us that it is unfair to performers and record label investors that they would fail to get a return because of a free-for-all in Europe. How is getting a 50-year return "unfair"?

The real danger according to Mr Jamieson is us, the people, as the threat to the British recording industry exists "when we get this wealth of British repertoire which started in around 1960 falling into anybody's hands". No doubt we're not to be trusted with the responsibility of taking care of these assets.

Thankfully last week the European Commission launched a consultation on simplifying and harmonising the various existing EU directives on copyright and related rights. In their working paper outlining their recommendations they resist arguments for wholesale changes to the directives such as extending copyright for recorded music from 50 to 95 years (as in the US), noting, correctly, that most other industrialised countries apply a term of 50 years

London SE12

Sir: Expiration of copyright is not a loophole, it is part of the fundamental idea of copyright, a limited monopoly on the work. Like many intellectual property laws, copyright has a time period attached which big corporations would love to have extended indefinitely. However, doing so would be leeching our culture.

Artists have always taken inspiration from other works, classic examples include Disney's adaptations of fairy tales and other public domain works. To extend copyright further and further would be to keep them from doing so and, clearly in the case of Elvis, shows that the record companies are interested only in their own pockets, not the artists.


Sir: Artists, musicians and writers should think themselves very lucky to have 50 years' copyright. Inventors who patent their work have to accept a life of only 20 years before the world has free use their work. And, as five years of that time may be spent in getting the invention ready for market, the revenue-earning life of a patent could be as short as 15 years. Where's the fairness in that?

Steyning, West Sussex

Parental anguish over self-harming son

Sir: Your coverage of self-harm made me cry ("The hidden epidemic", 27 July). It was the same when I found out that our intelligent, popular, rugby-playing 16-year-old son was cutting himself deliberately.

After a rapid downward spiral of increasingly risky self-injury his life was probably saved when he was admitted to hospital after attempting to hang himself. We were stunned. From a background of neither abuse nor neglect, the cause of his anguish is unclear (even to himself).

Divorce (despite continued contact, love and support from both parents), break up with his girlfriend, confusion over sexuality and exam stress, issues commonly encountered by many adolescents, played their part. Fortunately he is recovering but must live with the stigma of physical scars acquired through efforts at patching up wounds himself in his shame (hardly an attempt to attention seek).

Our son was lucky. His despair was recognised as requiring urgent assessment. He "only" had to wait a month to be seen by an adolescent mental health worker and he was able to get a place in one of the precious few adolescent mental health units.

The tragedy for so many is that there are scandalously few professionals or resources to support these vulnerable, misunderstood adolescents and their families. Between children's and adults' health services is a huge gap into which this embarrassing and frustrating group conveniently disappear.

For these young people their suffering continues often unrecognised and untreated, their desperation manifesting in regular trips to A&E and for many the real possibility of police custody and/or suicide.


Sir: One group that regularly harms itself often remains "hidden" - these are the unacceptably high numbers of children and young people being held in young offender institutions and prisons.

A recent survey of social workers found that 81 per cent of respondents had worked with young offenders who had harmed themselves while in custody, with cutting, head-banging and scratching being the most common forms of self-abuse. Other types of self-harm include burning, removal of body parts, breaking bones and extreme nail-biting. Seven out of 10 respondents also said they had worked with people who had considered or attempted suicide while in custody.

Young offenders are children too, and it is vital that the Government protects the human rights of children and young people held in custody. It must bring an end to current punitive and degrading practices such as routine strip-searching and the forceful use of control and restraint. At the same time, far more investment is needed in rehabilitation to get these young people back on track.

Acting Editor, Community Care
Sutton, Surrey

Sir: The extent of the problem of self-harming in Britain is extremely disturbing yet not surprising. Mental ill health extracts a £77bn toll on our society and damages millions of people's lives. Mental ill health is as big a public health issue as smoking or obesity. Yet it receives only a fraction of the attention from politicians, the media and indeed public health practitioners. Action to prevent mental ill health, and to tackle the stigma that is associated with it, should be at the centre of any effective public health policy.

Much of the distress that leads people to harm themselves is preventable through good mental health promotion. Much more can be done by ensuring young people's services are aware of the signs of mental distress and know how to help those who are having problems. It is vital that these are given the priority they deserve.

Acting Chief Executive
Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health
London SE1

Sir: Repeated deliberate self-harm has been portrayed as an enduring mental illness which is easily treatable, and it is only through the neglect of the mental health services that its prevalence is increasing. Most psychiatrists would beg to differ. Deliberate self-harm is often part of a very debilitating set of disorders termed "personality disorders". Its treatability is exceptionally difficult, with very little evidence for improvement after intervention.

The aetiology of these disorders includes years of neglect, abuse (physical and sexual)and social instability. They cannot be treated with medications, or even with hospital admissions. Deliberate self- harm is a reflection on our society and the social instabilities that go hand and hand with individualism. The answer to deliberate self- harm lies not with mental health services, but with social policy and the promotion of old-style family values.


Bamford, Rochdale

Sir: As someone who has battled with with the need to self-injure as a way to cope with major traumatic events, I was distressed early this morning to be suddenly confronted with a powerful image of "self-injury". I feel that such a hugely "triggery" image on the front page was both insensitive and potentially dangerous to many people who self-injure. I applaud your coverage, however, of this taboo issue. It was welcoming to see such public criticism of the poor treatment many self-injurers face at the hands of our health service.

London E1

Ethiopian pride

Sir: Matthew James (letters, 28 July) is wrong to suggest that Ethiopia will be unable to care for the Obelisk of Axum, which was stolen by Benito Mussolini, and that it should be offered to the British Museum for safe-keeping. He added that, if returned to Ethiopia, the obelisk would be seen only by a few tourists.

What Mr James fails to understand, as most Westerners do, is the true meanings of words such as "pride" and "dignity" to countries such as Ethiopia. Ethiopia is very poor, no argument. But for the past 50 years the country has been relentlessly campaigning for the return of the obelisk. It has constructed an airport at Axum (a small town) so that the obelisk can be flown directly and return home safely. The Ethiopian government has even promised its people that the day the obelisk returns home will be a national holiday.

Ethiopia is the only African country never to be colonised in its 3,000 years of history; and the return of the 2,500-year-old obelisk to Axum will not only be a source of joy to Ethiopians but to all Africans.

London E7

Opium trade

Sir: Your article "Opium Trade Booms in 'Basket Case' Afghanistan" (28 July) claims that the UK Government is failing in its strategy to eliminate opium production in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government's target to eliminate poppy cultivation by 2013 is a major challenge. We've said on many occasions that we expect an increase in opium poppy cultivation this year. That doesn't mean we've failed - a downbeat description that President Karzai himself rejects - it means it will take time.

Experience in other countries which have tackled opium poppy cultivation shows that in the early years of any elimination programme, production actually increases before reduction takes effect. In spite of this, the UK remains fully committed and we have already allocated £70m over three years to help implement the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy.

Progress has also been made towards establishing Afghanistan's law enforcement and its judicial framework to deal with the opium warlords, as well as increasing the country's ability to eradicate the poppy crop. It is essential that these things are in place to increase the arrest and prosecution of those involved in this illegal trade. At the same time steps are being taken to help develop the legal economy, providing alternative sources of income for Afghans involved in poppy cultivation.

Afghanistan is one of the UK's top priority countries for development assistance. In total, we have committed £500m over five years to help build its future. Nobody doubts that this is a complex and long-term problem. But the UK has said that we are in this for the long term and we shall remain so, whatever our detractors say.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
London SW1

Scottish midges

Sir: Miles Kington's column on midges in Scotland (27 July) was, I feel, negative enough to affect seriously the tourist industry in Scotland. My husband and I have been visiting Scotland regularly for the past 20 years, and took up residence here last year. We tour the country regularly in a caravan, and have, indeed, only just returned from a six-week tour of the Orkneys and West Coast. Only once have I resorted to a "midgie net" over my face - when I was weeding a shady part of my garden.

One simply learns to take sensible precautions, whatever country one is in. I have been exposed to malarial mosquitoes in Africa, "No-see-ums" in Scandinavia, and the notorious black fly of New Zealand, where a resident advised me to use a cheap home-made repellent consisting of baby oil and Dettol in equal proportions. I learned in Scandinavia to wear slacks and thin long-sleeved shirts as well.

Tourists in any part of the world should ask local residents or reliable travel agents for advice before leaving home.

Fort William, Scotland

Pricey pamphlet

Sir: So, £8m has been spent on a pamphlet telling us what to do in the event of a terrorist attack (report, 27 July). When I receive mine, I'll remember the millions of sick and starving people in the world who could have been saved with this money.

Seaford, East Sussex

Sir: In 1938, the government advised us to prepare for any forthcoming war by installing gas-proof rooms in our houses. My parents on the south coast were unimpressed, but my grandparents in the Midlands prepared a most impressive one. It proved of no use at all over the following seven years: are current instructions for dealing with a war on terror mainly involving hit-and-run assassinations likely to prove any better?

Dufftown, Moray

Charity clothes

Sir: I found your article on sweatshops in Indonesia (27 July) not just disturbing but also very frustrating. I have no choice but to buy my family clothes and boycotts will only mean more hunger for the workers - catch 22.

But I think I've found a reasonable compromise. I am about to start restocking on school uniform - I know I don't pay a fair price for what I get (£9 for a pair of teflon trousers that last a year is not a lot!), so for every item of clothing I buy I am going to put £1 in a pot to send to an appropriate charity.

Bishopthorpe, Yorkshire

Fishy figures

Sir: You report that a cormorant can eat up to 30,000 tons of fish a year (28 July). Eighty tons a day? This is equivalent to catching more than one two-pound fish every second, day and night, year in, year out.

That's certainly one for the Guinness Book of Records.

London SW1