Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Back to the sixties

On 12 September, a Directive was adopted that extends copyright of performing musicians from 50 years to 70 years after recording. The Directive somewhat narrows the gap between composers (who already enjoy copyright protection till 70 years after death) and performers, and is one of the outcomes of the European Commission's strategy on intellectual property rights. Good news for rock stars and for session musicians who were in danger of remaining without a pension? Critics point out that not all arguments in favour of copyright extension seem valid: a large share of the additional royalties are likely to go directly to record companies to which the rights on the recordings have been transferred, and there appears to be no conclusive evidence that an increased copyright term will encourage further investments in new music nor that it will make available more works. In this view, not creativity, but lobbying seems to be rewarded... (The European Commission's term extension proposal: Fair concern or fruit of industry lobbying?)

What does the extension of copyright mean for consumers? It is submitted that the new rules will not affect retail prices, since 'empirical studies show that the price of sound recordings that are out of copyright is not lower than that of sound recordings in copyright' (see the FAQ on the new Directive). Furthermore, according to the Commission, the answer to questions of intellectual property 'is in the single market'. In that context, it will be interesting to see whether rules on IP-protected digital content (e.g. downloaded music) will be included in a proposal for an instrument of European contract law.

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