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.