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MPs cosy up with Sir Cliff on copyright term

BPI tub-thumper in extension recommendation shocker

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Like Sir Cliff Richard, its biggest cheerleader and biggest embarrassment, the record industry campaign to extend copyright term on sound recordings refuses to die.

A report released today by the Commons Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee attempts to torpedo the recommendations of last year's wide-ranging intellectual property report for the Treasury by Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Financial Times.

Citing economic analysis from Cambridge University, he recommended no change to the status quo, where copyright owners are paid royalties on sound recordings for 50 years before the work enters the public domain. The record industry, fearing losing grip on its cash cow 1960s catalogue, lobbied hard and unsuccessfully to take the term to 70 years.

Releasing its counter arguments in "New Media and the Creative Industries", the select committee said Gowers had failed to give proper weight to the "moral right" of Sir Cliff to retain ownership of his 1958 performance on Move It. The committee is chaired by Conservative John Whittingdale, who has acted as a spokesman for record industry trade body the BPI in the past on its battle with digital music trends.

Since releasing his report in December, Andrew Gowers has said that rather than extending the term, his analysis erred on the side of reducing it, but that it would have been politically impossible.

As we reported when the labels lost their fight to sway Gowers, the next lobbying target will be the EU.

Welcoming the select committee's rolling over, BPI boss Geoff Taylor said: "We urge the Government to respond positively to the select committee and now make the case in Europe for fair copyright protection for British performers and record companies."

Away from copyright term, the report scores some easy points with music fans by adding to calls from Gowers, the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, and the BPI itself for the government to remove the pointless restrictions on home copying. It also goes on to grind the BPI axe against Google and ISPs, demanding the industry funds a body "to examine claims that unlicensed material is being made available on a website" without delay.

MPs clearly think that by campaigning on major labels' behalf they will appear as the defenders of artistic heritage, a sure-fire hit with voters.

Seventy-five have put their names to a motion proposed by Labour MP Michael Connarty, which states: "This House notes that 50 years ago Lonnie Donegan's Cumberland Gap was No. 1 in the charts for five weeks; is concerned that due to the present law governing payments for use of audio recordings this track will go out of copyright at the end of 2007 and that the family of Lonnie Donegan, who would have been 76 on 29 April, and the other performers will no longer receive any royalties, nor have any say in how this recording is used".

The parliamentary moves to reanimate the debate have drawn consternation from the Open Rights Group, among others. It has a list of the MPs who have signed the motion here.

This one ain't over. ®

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