A group of leading musicians, including band members from Blur and Pink Floyd, have demanded the right to prevent their music being used or sold for profit by the British National Party.
The far-right party raises money by selling a selection of nostalgic folk albums on its website - but many of the musicians featured have discovered that they are powerless to stop their work financing the party. In a letter to The Times tomorrow, members of the Featured Artists’ Coalition and Musicians’ Union have called for legally enshrined moral rights over the reproduction and sale of their material.
“We would, on behalf of our joint membership of over 31,000 members, like to have our opposition to the BNP’s politics and morals formally noted,” read the letter signed by artists including Dave Rowntree, from Blur, Nick Mason, of Pink Floyd, and singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.
“In the lead up to the European elections, it has come to our attention that the BNP is selling compilation CDs through its website in order to raise funds for campaigning. Many of the musicians featured on these . . . have no legal right to object to their music being used in this way.”
The BNP's commercial partner, Excalibur, sells a range of CDs including Proud Heritage, Rule Britannia and an album called West Wind, written by party leader Nick Griffin, which claims “to incorporate folk and more upbeat tempos to deliver a powerful message of how British people have been disposed”.
Paddy Gordon, bass guitarist for an Ulster band called Brier, was furious to find that his music was helping to fund the BNP’s campaign for next week’s European election.
“I got an e-mail from a friend saying: ‘have you seen where your music is for sale?’ My initial reaction was shock, now I am very angry,” he said.
“These BNP people are taking the proceeds from other people’s work. We don’t want any connection with such a party but we seem to be powerless to do anything about it.” Mr Gordon said the songs included on A Feast of Irish Folk were love songs with no political links.
Dame Vera Lyne, 91, threatened to take legal action against the BNP earlier this year when she discovered that her work, including the White Cliffs of Dover, was available to buy on the Excalibur website. Under current law, however, musical performers or composers have little or no ability to prevent retailers selling their work once it is sold by a wholesaler to a particular distributor.
Nigel McCune, national organiser at the Musicians’ Union, said that a moral right should be enacted in law to give musicians a safeguard against this kind of association.
“There is nothing as it stands to stop the BNP from acting in this way and there is nothing that the performers can do to prevent it. If a moral right came in you would then be able to test how far you could stretch it,” he said. “Billy Bragg, for example, could find his track New England for sale on a BNP website raising money for something that he has spent his entire musical life campaigning against. We would like to think that there should be a framework in this country sufficient to prevent something like that happening.”
The BNP made it clear today that they did not intend to remove the work of artists who did not want to be linked the party. A BNP spokesman said: “They’ve already made there money haven’t they? Once that music’s gone through a distributor. They’re politicising themselves to a high degree by doing this and we wouldn’t really be concerned by that. It’s up to us what we sell - we’re not changing. There’s no suggestion through this that artists support the BNP or otherwise. They’re barking up the wrong tree to be honest.”