May 16, 2007 / 12:35 PM / 13 years ago

Report backs music copyright extension

LONDON (Reuters) - British copyright laws on sound recordings must be extended beyond 50 years to prevent veteran musicians such as Cliff Richard and Paul McCartney from losing royalties in later life, a report said on Wednesday.

Paul McCartney poses for the media before a signing session in London November 22, 2006. British copyright laws on sound recordings must be extended beyond 50 years to prevent veteran musicians such as McCartney and Cliff Richard from losing royalties in later life, a report said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Stephen Hird

The issue over copyright has become a hot topic in Britain as early hits from ageing acts approach the cut-off point, just as downloading music sparks a revival for back catalogues.

Under current rules, performers can earn royalties for 50 years from the end of the year when a sound recording was made.

In comparison, novelists, playwrights and composers enjoy copyright protection for their life and 70 years afterwards.

If the rules do not change, Richard’s first hit “Move It!” from 1958 would lose protection in 2009 while early tracks from The Beatles such as “Love Me Do” will also soon be out of date.

“We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not,” parliament’s culture, media and sport committee said in its report.

“Given the strength and importance of the creative industries in the UK, it seems extraordinary that the protection of intellectual property rights should be weaker here than in many other countries whose creative industries are less successful.”

The copyright protection for performers in the United States is 95 years from release and 70 years in Australia.

A review requested by the government and released in December by Andrew Gowers rejected calls to extend the protection, saying it would not benefit the industry.

But the report released on Wednesday argued that this examined the situation from a purely economic point of view and had not considered the moral rights of artists to own and control their intellectual property.

The committee called on the government to lobby the European Commission to extend the term to at least 70 years.

John Kennedy, the chairman of the IFPI body which represents the international recording industry, welcomed the report.

“The Select Committee has given a ringing endorsement for fair treatment of the UK music industry,” he said.

“It has backed two simple principles — that UK performers must get a term of copyright protection comparable to composers and that Britain must not be left with weaker copyright protection than its international partners.”

The committee, which looked at a range of issues facing the creative industries, also sided with the IFPI over its fight to force Internet service providers to do more to discourage piracy.

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