Friday, September 19, 2014

The morning after

So Scotland stays part of the UK.

Wisdom after the event is pretty useless, but I guessed at a 45/55 split in favour of remaining (a YouGov app asked me the day before). There was no real intuition there, just a guess that the final result would be a little bit more "conservative" than the polls were suggesting, as people lost their nerve (or as undecided voters thought it was best to go with the status quo). It was much closer than the referendum on electoral reform ....

My thoughts this morning? The three "English" parties have no electoral mandate to offer increased devolution of powers. The settlement that permits public (government) spending to be 20% higher in Scotland is, at least to my mind, undemocratic and an example of the unaccountability of central government. And nobody ever asked us if we still wanted a union with a country so eager to bite the hand that feeds (did I mention that you pay five times more to be a student in Scotland if you are from England than if you are from a qualifying EU country? Source). Those are just a couple of the points relevant to this issue which illustrate how Westminster and the political process in general is also disengaged from the electorate that didn't get to vote. As was commented by another English friend, "When do WE get to vote for independence?"

The turnout in the referendum was over 84%. The last time the UK saw a turnout of this level in a general election was 1950. At the last general election, it was around 65% (source). This shows that people are engaged by political questions, and yet they don't vote in general elections. Why is this? Perhaps because it feels like it makes no difference. Few of the political parties distinguished themselves in this referendum - and yet, there was a genuine sense amongst the voting population in Scotland that they were a part of something. Perhaps it was the very fact that it was largely detached from the Westminster political system - or maybe because, unlike the bulk of votes cast in the general election, it would actually count towards the final result.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Comment on the referendum

I would rather Scotland stayed. But not at any price. I really dislike the thought of you staying because you've been bribed to do so by the three "English" parties and continuing to have a chip on your shoulder about the English, whilst benefiting even more from the taxes paid south of the border, both direct and indirect (students from England pay more than students from the rest of the EU to study in Scotland - don't tell me there's no way around that). Stay as part of Britain and stop your greetin', or go away and find your own path and stop your greetin'.

My father was born in Scotland; my paternal grandmother was a Scot. I am proud of having a Scots heritage. From a Christian point of view, I also have more time for the Reformation as it was expressed in Scotland, and the way it has influenced the ideas of Scots politicians (as opposed to the greedy, self-serving old-boy-ism which shapes too much of English politics and discourse). But the Scotland that I care about was never the one that fell for this vain idea.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Who owns sermons?

When someone preaches in a church, who owns the sermon, from a copyright point of view?

It's a more complex question than you might think. Technically, as the person who delivers the sermon, the preacher owns it. And yet, the church is likely to fairly freely make use of it - put recordings on websites, distribute copies of sermon notes, possibly use extracts in various contexts. And also the church has probably paid the speaker to speak. What rights has that bought? Normally it's not a big deal - the preacher and the church exist in a relationship with one another: the church promotes and uses the preacher's teaching material; the preacher is supported by the church. As an example of the lack of clarity about this which exists, in one church I visit, I kind of discovered that although there was no apparent microphone, my talks were being recorded to listen to later. I wasn't particularly bothered, though.

But there are some circumstances when it may become more of an issue. For example, what if the church wants to use the sermons in another context - perhaps for radio broadcasts, or for publication in a book. Who decides? If royalties are generated, who should get them? Or supposing there is a breakdown in the relationship between church and preacher? This article in Christianity Today discusses the issue. It suggests that the most natural approach is probably to consider that the copyright is owned by the speaker, but he in effect grants the church a royalty-free licence to use his written or recorded material.

What does this mean? It means that the church can basically get on and use the material as they would normally do, and the speaker would implicitly accept that. But the speaker still has control if the church were to decide that it was worth doing something different with the material.

I am involved with a Christian conference, and this raises another bunch of complications. Again, it's reasonable for the conference to use messages from speakers as though this royalty-free licence exists. But since the conference organisation exists in effect as a group of people who make up an ad hoc committee once a year, plus people who work on particular tasks pretty much on their own, how do we decide - or rather, who decides - what use the conference can reasonably make of material that's produced? To what extent should we be telling the speaker exactly how their sermon is to be used? Ideas on a postcard, please ....