EU seeks to extend copyright protection for artists to 95 years BRUSSELS: The European Union said Thursday that it would seek to extend copyright protection for singers and musicians to 95 years - rather than the current 50 - a move designed to prevent performers from losing out in later life.
By Stephen Castle
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The proposals, made by Charlie McCreevy, the commissioner for the internal market, would extend to performers the entitlements to royalty payments enjoyed by their counterparts in the United States, and by composers in Europe, most of whom have 70 years of copyright protection.
McCreevy said that, with longer life expectancy, 50 years of copyright protection did not give artists a guaranteed lifetime income.
"If nothing is done, thousands of European performers who recorded in the late 1950s and 1960s will lose all of their airplay royalties over the next 10 years," McCreevy said.
Royalties often made up the "sole pension" for artists, he said, and the loss of them could come during "the most vulnerable period of their lives."
"I have not seen or heard a convincing reason why a composer of music should benefit from a term of copyright that extends to the composer's life and 70 years beyond, while the performer should enjoy 50 years, often not even covering his lifetime," McCreevy said.
The proposal, which needs approval from EU governments and the European Parliament, is designed to benefit not just big names like Cliff Richard and Charles Aznavour, but session and lesser-known musicians, McCreevy said.
The European Commission said a survey it conducted showed that many European performers or singers started their career in their early 20s. Session musicians, who were not members of a band, often began performing when they were 17. These individuals would be in their 70s when copyright protection ended.
The proposals were widely welcomed by the music industry.
"If implemented, these measures are excellent news for thousands of artists, many of whom rely on income from sound recordings for their long term financial security," the EMI chairman, Guy Hands, said. "EMI has long believed that the significant imbalance in the protection provided to performers compared to composers is unjustified and unfair. Like composers, artists should enjoy recognition for their work throughout the whole of their lives."
John Smith, president of the International Federation of Musicians, said: "This is great news for thousands of musicians and we are especially delighted that the commission has acted to benefit session musicians."
McCreevy also proposed a new "use it or lose it" law under which record companies that refused to re-release a record during the extended copyright period would not be able to prevent artists from moving to a new label. The move would have no impact on consumers, the commission said.
The commission also wants to revisit a reform of copyright levies charged on blank discs, data storage and music and video players. These charges, which vary widely among European countries, help to compensate artists and copyright holders for legal copying of their material. In 2006, McCreevy tried and failed to reform the copyright levy system, opposed by the French government.
"There is little coherence between member states as to how they apply these levies," McCreevy said.
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