Extension of the copyright term for performers and record producers

By EDRi · July 30, 2008

On 16 July 2008, disregarding the well substantiated findings and opinions
of the Amsterdam Institute for Information Law, the Cambridge Study for the
UK Government and the Bournemouth University statement signed by 50 leading
academics in June 2008, the European Commission (EC) adopted an initiative
proposing the extension of the copyright term for the recorded performances
as well as records.

Actually, two initiatives were adopted by the European Commission
related to copyright, proposing the extension of the copyright term for the
recorded performances and phonograms and the harmonisation of the
copyright term to cover co-written works as well. The EC also adopted a
Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy.

“The copyright measures adopted today should underline that we take a
holistic approach when it comes to intellectual property. The proposal on
term extension has a strong social component and the Green Paper is deeply
embedded in the overall societal and knowledge context. (…) I am committed
to concentrate all necessary efforts to ensure that performers have a decent
income and that there will be a European-based music industry in the years
to come,” stated Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy.

The EC proposition is to extend the term of protection for the recorded
performances and the records from 50 to 95 years. From the
proposal would thus benefit not only the performers but also the record
producers. The justification of the measure is that the performers should be
able to benefit from their work even in the old age and that the record
producers may obtain additional revenues under the conditions of a decline
of the physical sales and a relatively slow growth on the online sales. The
initiative has also in view to harmonise the way of calculating the term of
protection to cover the collective works, proposing that the term of
protection of a musical composition should expire 70 years after the death
of the last surviving author, whether it refers to the lyrics author or the
music composer.

The concerns raised by the initiatives adopted by the EC are very serious:
“This Copyright Extension Directive, proposed by Commissioner McCreevy, is
likely to damage seriously the reputation of the Commission. It is a
spectacular kowtow to one single special interest group: the multinational
recording industry (Universal, Sony/BMG, Warner and EMI) hiding behind the
rhetoric of aging performing artists” says a letter sent on 18 July 2008 by
the leading European centres for intellectual property research addressed to
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The letter includes an impact assessment of the negative effects of the
proposal. “The Commission is required to conduct an impact study for each
directive it proposes. We, the leading European centres for intellectual
property policy research, have collectively reviewed the empirical evidence.
Our findings are unanimous. The proposed Copyright Extension Directive will
damage European creative endeavour and innovation beyond repair.”

In a letter sent to The Times, the group of intellectual property research
centres considers the copyright extension is beneficial mostly for rights
holders doing nothing for innovation and creativity. The signatories believe
the proposed copyright system will alienate the younger generation even
more. They believe that other measures would be more appropriate to support
the aging performers as well as the young ones. The copyright term is meant
to balance the interests of consumers and creators and granting further
intellectual property rights without a proper basis is not beneficial to the
competitiveness of the EU either. The commission should not take the record
industry’s word claiming that by this extension the consumer prices will not
rise, that performing artists will earn more, and the record industry will
invest in discovering new talents (as if a 50 year period was not enough for

The EU proposal will further on proceed to the Council of Ministers and
the European Parliament.

Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package

EU Commission proposes copyright term extension and ignores all the evidence

Term Extension “will damage Commission’s reputation”, top legal advisers
tell Barroso (18.06.2008)

Letter of Group to Barroso (16.06.2008)

Creativity stifled? A Joined Academic Statement on the Proposed Copyright
Term Extension for Sound Recordings (16.06.2008)

Copyright extension is the enemy of innovation – Letter to The Times

ALCS study – Authors’ earnings from copyright and non-copyright sources: A
survey of 25,000 British and German writers (13.07.2007)

EDRI-gram: ENDitorial: The battle for Sound Copyright (12.03.2008)