EUROPE: The European Commission is seeking a 95-year copyright term for performers and producers, writes David Davies. In a move made public on 16 July, the Commission proposed to align the copyright term for performers with that applicable to authors, thereby bridging the income gap faced by musicians and producers in retirement. The EC also signalled its support for a proposal to harmonise the copyright term that applies to co-written musical compositions, and a Green Paper that addresses the "rapid dissemination of knowledge and information" in the modern economy.
Confirmed by internal market and services commissioner Charlie McCreevy, the copyright term development marks the latest stage in a long-running European debate that, in the UK, has also encompassed the much-discussed Gowers Review and a Private Members' Bill formulated by Scottish National Party MP (and former Runrig keyboard player) Peter Wishart.
Specifically, the proposal on copyright term adopted by the EC calls for an extension of protection for recorded performances and the record itself from 50 to 95 years. According to the EC, the changes would benefit both performer and record producer, and emphasise Europe's regard for their "creative contribution".
"The copyright measures adopted today should underline [the fact] that we take a holistic approach when it comes to intellectual property," said McCreevy. "I am committed to concentrating all necessary efforts to ensure that performers have a decent income and that there will be a Europe-based music industry in the years to come."
Considerable obstacles remain, however, with EU governments and the European Parliament needing to approve the scheme before it can be implemented. The British government, for one, has made it clear that it intends to pursue a thorough public consultation. In a statement posted on the website of the UK Intellectual Property Office - an executive agency of the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (DUIS) - intellectual property minister Baroness Delyth Morgan commented: "Because copyright represents a monopoly we need to be very clear that the circumstances justify an extension. We will therefore need to consider these proposals carefully to understand how they would work and what the benefits are likely to be. I would like to hear what the public thinks about this, and would urge all those who have an interest in these proposals to make sure their voice is heard and to contact the UK-IPO by the end of August."
Music Producers Guild chairman Mike Howlett (pictured) is among the senior industry figures to give a warm welcome to the latest EC initiative. "The move highlights the value of the industry, and that is good news at a time when various forces are taking value out of the industry," he tells PSN-e. "Seeking this extension is not about the Cliffs and the Phil Collinses, it's about the session players and the guys in the band. It would mean a little bit of income for recordings that they played on and made, which is presently cutting off at a time when it becomes most necessary. In particular, those people who have not made the big time really appreciate those little cheques coming through every now and then."