Lies, damn lies and poll questions

There has been a move to have copyright extended on recorded works (i.e. music) in the UK. Currently it stands at 50 years but they wanted it increased to 95 years.

Thankfully this was rejected but it does give us a wonderful example of how polls can be influenced by the clever wording of a question.

The BPI (British Phonographic Institute) asked whether UK artists “should be protected for the same number of years as their American counterparts”.

As The Register observed, this is a very loaded question. There is a patriotic element and a nonensical argument. Are those rights that US artists enjoy actually fair or even serving the purpose for which copyright was first conceived? Who will actually benefit from this extension – the artists or the recording labels?

Consider these questions and imagine that we are talking about the first Gulf War era.

“Should British soldiers be given the same weapons that the Iraqi army has in order to fight them effectively?”

“Should British soldiers be given chemical and biological weapons?”

Both examples are asking the same thing. I suspect though that many more people will answer yes to the first example than they would the second.

When the BPI used their question, they found a majority supported the notion of allowing people such as Cliff Richard to continue to charge royalties for up to 95 years.


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