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EU recording copyright extension 'will cost €1bn'

Academic: Record companies, not artists, will benefit

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Extending the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years will cost the general public more than €1bn, an intellectual property academic has claimed.

Earlier this week changes were approved to the EU's Directive on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights. The change means music performers will receive 70 years of copyright protection after the time of recordings rather than just 50 years as the Directive previously provided.

Martin Kretschmer, director of Bournemouth University's Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management said that record companies will garner far greater benefits from the change than small-time artists and called the decision to approve the changes "a dreadful day for musicians and consumers".

"It is not surprising that many performers’ organisations and collecting societies support the Directive," Kretschmer said in a statement.

"They do not have to carry the costs – which will exceed €1bn to the general public," he said.

"Seventy-two per cent of the financial benefits from term extension will accrue to record labels. Of the 28 per cent that will go to artists, most of the money will go to superstar acts, with only 4 per cent benefiting those musicians mentioned in the [Council of Ministers] press release as facing an 'income gap at the end of their life times'. Many performers also do not appear to understand that the proposal would lead to a redistribution of income from living to dead artists," Kretschmer said.

The Council of Ministers, which followed the European Parliament in approving the changes to the laws, said that the extension of copyright protection would enhance performers' rights throughout the duration of their life.

"Performers generally start their careers young and the current term of protection of 50 years often does not protect their performances for their entire lifetime," the body of EU ministers said in a statement on Monday.

"Therefore, some performers face an income gap at the end of their lifetimes. They are also often not able to rely on their rights to prevent or restrict objectionable uses of their performances that may occur during their lifetimes," the Council of Ministers statement said.

Sweden, one of the eight countries represented at the Council of Ministers to vote against the copyright term extension, said that extending copyright protection on sounding recordings to 70 years was neither fair nor balanced" and "therefore risks undermining the respect for copyright in general even further," according to the statement from Kretschmer.

Belgium also opposed the changes on the basis that the proposals were "unbalanced", it said, according to the statement.

"It seems that the measure will mainly benefit record producers and not performing artists, will only have a very limited effect for most of the performing artists, will have a negative impact on the accessibility of cultural material such as those contained in libraries and archives, and will create supplementary financial and administrative burdens to enterprises, broadcasting organisations and consumers," Belgian representatives said, according to the statement.

Kretschmer said that record labels had "resourced" the lobbying campaign to extend copyright protection in order to continue benefiting from "classic recordings of the 1960s".

"The chorus of approval has been led by aging artists, masking the fact that for more than a decade the lobby for copyright extension has been resourced by the multinational record industry," the academic said in his statement.

"Labels do not want to lose the revenues of the classic recordings of the 1960s which are reaching the end of their current 50-year term. Rather than innovating, rights-holders find it much easier to exclude competition. Europe is in danger of locking away her music heritage just as digital technology is enabling the opening of the archives," Kretschmer said.

Copyright law expert Kim Walker from Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said copyright protection should only be used to guarantee the minimum level of compensation for creators' efforts.

"I am generally not in favour of extending the term of copyright on the basis that the purpose of copyright is to give the minimum possible protection required to reward the creator for their inventiveness and creativity," Walker said.

"If you try to extend copyright beyond what is required and reasonable it only undermines respect for copyright if there is excess protection and can encourage online copyright infringement," he said.

Copyright © 2011, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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