EP passes performers' copyright term extension directive in first reading

By EDRi · May 6, 2009

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Deutsch: [EP verabschiedet die Verlängerung der Urheberrechtsfrist in der ersten Lesung | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1389]

Although largely opposed by some EU Member States in the Council, criticized
by the consumers’ organizations and strongly opposed by 4 out of the 7 main
political groups (ALDE, GREENS/EFA, NGL, IND/ DEM) in the European
Parliament (EP), the directive on performers copyright term extension was
passed by the MEPs in the first reading on 23 April 2009.

Besides the four groups, there were other national delegations and key MEPs
who joined the fight to reject the directive, but the final vote was 317 in
favour, 178 against, 37 abstentions.

The report by Irish MEP Brian Crowley proposed the extension of the term
from 50 to 70 years for performers and recording companies, while the
initial proposal of the European Commission was to extend the term up to 95
years. The extension by 20 years seems to be a compromise to acknowledge the
disapproval of some of the Member States.

“The current differences in term of protection, particularly between Europe
and the US, cause legal uncertainty and piracy, especially in the digital
environment, where there are no boundaries,” said Brian Crowley who added:
“The extended term would also benefit the record producers. It would
generate additional revenue from the sale of records in shops and on the

The new text provides a dedicated fund for session musicians having given up
their rights when signing contracts for their performances. The fund is to
be financed by contributions from producers who would be obliged to put
aside for this at least 20% of the revenues resulted from the extended term,
at least once a year. The collective societies are given the right to manage
the additional remuneration. A key amendment to ensure benefits accrued only
to performers was, unfortunately, rejected.

The initial text has also been modified so as to prevent previous contract
terms to deduct money from the additional revenues for performers. Also, an
approved amendment allows performers to renegotiate contracts concluded
before the entry into force of this legislation. “Use it or lose it” clause
says that in case the producers do not make the recording available to the
public within a year after the 50-year period has ended, their rights expire
and performers can be transferred the rights for the respective recording.

MEPs ask the Commission to launch by January 2010 an impact assessment of
the situation in the European audiovisual sector in order to decide
whether a similar copyright extension would be beneficial for that area as
well. Member States will have two years to transpose the new legislation.

Professor Bernt Hugenholtz, Director of the University of Amsterdam’s
Institute for Information Law (IViR) criticized the Commission for not
having taken into consideration the finding of the two commissioned studies
carried out by IViR on the extension of the copyright term. In an open
letter addressed in August 2008, he accused the Commission of “wilfully
ignoring scientific analysis and evidence”.

Monique Goyens, director-general of European consumer organisation BEUC, has
also criticised the proposed legislation summarising the present situation
as follows: “The technology is of the 21st century, the legislation is of
the 19th century and the right holder organisations are of the Middle Age.”

The directive is now being sent to the EU Council of Ministers for first
reading, where it is currently blocked by several member states.

Parliament buckles: copyright extension goes through to Council of Ministers

European Parliament backs 70-year copyright term for sound recordings

Music copyright still divisive, despite MEPs’ backing (29.04.2009)

Music copyright to be extended to 70 years for performers (23.04.2009)

IViR Open Letter to Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European
Commission (28.08.2008)

EDRI-gram: Extended copyright term for sound recordings pushed back