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EU adds 20 years to music copyrights, considers film

updated 01:10 pm EDT, Mon April 27, 2009

EU extends music copyright

Last week, the European Parliament has extended music copyrights from 50 to 70 years, just in time to keep early rock-and-roll songs out of the public domain, according to a Monday Ars Technica report. The move will allow bands such as the Beatles and some 1950s bands to avoid having songs fall into the public domain. At the same time, Parliament asked the European Commission to launch an assessment of movie copyrights by January 2010, which could see their copyrights extended as well.

The extension is controversial, prompting attacks from academics at major European educational institutions who say the extension was done to appease music labels who wish to keep profiting from the music and would hurt consumers and society as a whole. When the UK's Andrew Gowers released a highly publicized report on intellectual property in 2006 that argued no copyright extensions were needed, the music labels switched to lobbying the EU instead of national governments.

A study by a group headed by Professor P. Bernt Hugenholtz of the University of Amsterdam mirrored Gowers' findings. The report was commissioned, paid for, and published by the European Commission, but wasn't mentioned when the extension appeal was made. Hugenholtz responded by writing a letter that said the process aims to "mislead the council and the Parliament, as well as the citizens of the European Union." He went on to say the Commission reinforces public suspicion that "its policies are less the product of a rational decision-making process than of lobbying by stakeholders."

Those in favor of the extension say some 7,000 artists throughout Europe will lose their form of income if their recordings become unprotected.

Musicians make an average of the equivalent of $2,625 per year from music royalties, with the majority of the profits -- some 70 percent -- going to the record labels. A full two-thirds of the profits from a recording are made in the first six years of its release, says the executive director of the UK-based Open Rights Group, arguing record companies are not in favor of the extension for the musician's benefit.

Under the new law, artists could regain their rights to songs that are no longer offered for sale to the public. The extension still needs approval by the European Council.

by MacNN Staff



  1. dynsight

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Disagree with this

    I am all for enforcing copyrights... but this is just wrong. US copyrights were extended for Mickey Mouse; The Beatles have enough money.

    Fact is, having more items in public domain brings out more innovation. Someone wishing to release a movie with copyrighted music will be forced too look for new music, instead of using tired old songs. And given the choice, hollywood tends to shy away from "open source" music [public domain].

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Just another case of supposed representatives getting paid off to steal from the public, in this case looting the public domain for another 20 years. Is there any doubt left who these people represent? Corporate welfare wins the day again, at the expense of all us peasants.

  1. ricardogf

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Just as the stupid Sonny Bono Act, Europe falls prey to the media industry...copyright is NOT an absolute right of ownership, and should never be extended beyond its statutory limits, which have been established EXACTLY to provide a reasonable income to their owners and heirs...absolutely ridiculous and just another display of ad hoc changes to appease a few in detriment of many others.

  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Should not have happened

    The solution is of course to just completely boycott the purchase of any of the music that falls into the new 20 year extension.

    Of course people won't be willing to do this and instead will just pony up to pay for another 20 years.

    To h*** with that. I wouldn't touch the stuff as this is obviously a change in legal statues purely to provide more income. I wonder who was paid off for this nonsense.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I would be okay

    with this if they made a mandatory reversal of the percentages. After 50 years, the record labels get 30% and the artists get 70%.

    That would make it much more palatable to me.

  1. Bobfozz

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "to appease music labels who wish to keep profiting from the music and would hurt consumers and society as a whole"

    How is this remark true (hurting consumers and society)? The bookkeeping costs in many instances will outweigh the profits made by anyone.

    While I don't agree with changing the rules, freeloaders should learn how to do some of their own innovation instead of relying on the works and sweat of others.

    It's always clear to me when others want to rip off someone else's stuff that they have never done anything meaningful of their own or have failed and look at copying as their only source of livelihood.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Freeloading

    Based on your comments, you should be arguing for 50 year patent rights as well.

    When people make copyrighted works, they understand there's a time limit. It's in the laws. It's not like they passed a new law limiting it to 50 years, and then realizing that it was unfair and increasing it.

    And isn't trying to live off royalties 50 years after creating the work in effect freeloading as well?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Keep in mind that a lot of the early music this stuff covers is mostly owned by the labels, not the poor suffering artists (who've not done anything in the last 50 years except earn a royalty check, apparently), as the artists back then signed off all their rights to their music (even worse than it is now).

    But, beyond that, you need to sit back and look at the big picture. Take books. There are a lot of books that are considered 'classics'. One of the reason they became classics is because they are in the public domain, which allows them to be enjoyed by more people.

    Of course, Mozart and Beethoven's music wouldn't be as well known and popular today if they weren't in the public domain. And the main reason "It's a Wonderful Life" became a holiday classic was because everyone showed it, because it was considered in the public domain. (Then some company claimed they still owned the rights, now its shown only two times a year and most people never get to enjoy it).

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