ENDitorial: The battle for Sound Copyright

By EDRi · March 12, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Commissioner Charlie McCreevy’s announcement in February 2008 that he
proposes to nearly double the term of copyright protection for sound
recordings from 50 to 95 years came as a shock to UK digital rights
campaigners. Back in 2006, here in the UK, the case against copyright
term extension was robustly made – by campaigners such as my
organisation, the Open Rights Group, and more importantly, by
economists from one of the UK’s leading universities. It led to a firm
commitment from our Government that they would never seek to extend
copyright term retrospectively.

There is no case for copyright term extension. Term extension would
reduce, yet again, the size of the public domain, harming public
access to old material and chilling the creation of new works that
build upon the past. The only beneficiaries will be the owners of a
limited number of valuable back-catalogues – the majors and a very few
lucky performers – who will receive windfall gains at the public’s
expense and at the expense of future innovators. That the UK
government finally recognised this looked like a line in the sand for
IP reformists. Professor Lawrence Lessig, whose own gambit to stop
copyright term in the US failed despite his having the backing of two
Nobel-prize winning economists – called the work of the Open Rights
Group “proof that we cynics were wrong”.

So what happened? The UK publication Music Week, the local gazette for
the band of musicians, record label bosses and collecting societies
who are pushing an extension in term, summed it up well when it
observed last week that people need to “keep faith in the lobbying
process, which has been ongoing in Europe”. The battle against term
extension is fought by unequal sides. Those who are for it are a
coherent group of people with something singular and immediate to
gain, as well as significant funds to invest in their lobbying
efforts. Those who are against term extension – and that should be
anyone with an interest in access to the public domain – are a large,
disparate mass who will benefit from sensible copyright laws and a
healthy public domain in many different ways.

That lobbyists have had their way with McCreevy should be obvious; the
proposal to extend term flies in the face of the iVIR study (quoted in
last EDRI-gram), a piece of research commissioned by McCreevy’s own
Directorate Generale, DG MARKT. But we should not give up. If past
experience is anything to go by, it will take two things to expose
McCreevy’s mercantilism: evidence that term extension will do little
to benefit regular session musicians and other performers, and
evidence that Europeans care about this issue. We have the former. And
we are gaining the latter.

At the campaign website Soundcopyright.eu, launched in February by the
Open Rights Group and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, over 8,000
people have already signed a petition which demands that the EU take
account of all stakeholders when devising copyright policy. If you
believe that copyright policy should be decided on the basis of
evidence, and not on the basis of who lobbies the hardest, please add
your voice to theirs.

Sound Copyright – Don’t Let the Record Labels Break Their Promise

Open Rights Group and EFF launch Europe-wide anti-term extension petition

EDRi-gram : Extension of the copyright term for performers proposed to the
EC (27.02.2008)

(Contribution by Becky Hogge – EDRi-member Open Rights Group – UK)