EU Blocks Copyright Extension Proposal

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union has rejected a proposal to extend copyrights for recorded music from 50 to 95 years.

Following rounds of talks among European ministers in the Committee of Permanent Representatives, the move was blocked by a group of nations that included the UK.

Intellectual property copyright holders outside of music are watching the final outcome in the EU, as similar proposals or revisions may be suggested with regard to extending the copyright years of other media.  In the U.S, for example, legislation was passed in 1992 to automatically increase copyright protection without exception to a total of 75 years for all registered works for hire regardless of their commercial value. 

The decision to block the current EU proposal has been supported by Britain's Featured Artists Coalition, which includes Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien, Blur drummer David Rowntree, pop singer Kate Nash, leftist English folk singer Billy Bragg, pop musician and TV host Jools Holland, and R&B performer Craig David.

A statement from the FAC said the "current text did not yet give sufficient benefit for performers," reports Billboard.

"The FAC supports the principle of extending copyright beyond the current term. However, we believe that all rights in recordings should revert to the artist after 50 years," the statement said. "Owning our rights would enable artists to negotiate new deals with record labels and other users of music that would reflect the true costs of digital distribution. We would also be able to decide when our music can be used for free and when we should expect remuneration."

Other music trade organizations lobbied for the near-doubling of years that a piece of music's copyright would be in effect, reports British website The Stage.   In a joint statement, the Musicians' Union, UK royalties-collecting society PPL, record label trade body BPI and the Association of Independent Music, said they were all  "very disappointed," especially by its own government shutting down the proposal.

"The UK music sector has lived up to its commitments by reaching an agreement, as demanded by ministers, that will deliver real benefits to musicians in an extended term," the statement said. "In continuing to hold out for further changes, the government has not heeded the repeated pleas of the very musicians it claims to support."

The proposal will still be given a final vote in the European Parliament, but is not expected to pass.

Taking an adversarial stance against copyright extension, TechDirt called the idea a "welfare system for musicians, whereby they should continue getting paid for work they did over 50 years ago. It's a total distortion of the purpose of copyright law -- and one that will cost consumers dearly, and pay musicians little, but enrich the recording industry tremendously."

Also voicing opposition was the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which said on its site, "If you're a European citizen, now is the time to call on your national government's department responsible for IP policy  to encourage it to join the opposition against term extension or steady its current no vote in the Council of Ministers. If the directive overcomes this latest hurdle, only a vote in the European Parliament will stop it from becoming EU law."