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Copyright extension a no-go: BPI reacts

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Updated The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property will recommend the current 50 year copyright term on sound recordings is not extended, according to reports.

Though the Review's opinion is not neccessarily binding on the government, it will be a blow to the recording industry which had been lobbying to extend the term to 95 years - the same as in the US. The BBC said late last night that former Financial Times editor Gowers will recommend the current term remains when he delivers his Review next week alongside the Chancellor's pre-budget report.

The British Phonographic Institute (BPI), which represents many record labels and related companies, today tried to downplay the significance of the leak. Chairman Peter Jamieson said: "It is really the responses of the Treasury, DTI and DCMS and not the recommendations of an independent report, that we are most interested in. It's in the government's power to ignore such a recommendation and they should do so."

One record industry source today told The Register the news meant the push to extend sound recording copyright could be about to hit the buffers. He said: "The fat lady hasn't sung yet, but she's tuning up."

At the Economist's annual Innovation Summit earlier this month, Gowers said the decision over copyright extension should be framed in terms of whether it fosters creativity. The BPI and others including high profile recording artists like Cliff Richard and Mick Hucknall had argued term extension would be vital to the industry's ability to bring on new acts and would act as a pension scheme for retired musicians.

Nacsent UK digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group campaigned against extension, asserting it would mostly benefit the four major labels. Influential liberal-leaning thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research said in its recent report on copyright: "We have not seen any evidence to suggest that current protections provided in law are insufficient. We feel that to extend terms any further than their current length is economically illogical and anti-competitive."

The British Library meanwhile said term extension would render nearly all of the UK's audio history into copyright and jeopardise its ability to preserve the national sound heritage.

The independent Gowers review was commissioned around this time last year to examine a host of intellectual property-related issues as the Treasury seeks to encourage a "knowledge-based economy". ®

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