September 15th, 2011
This past Monday, the European Union extended the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 years to 70 years. The main motivation for the extension was to benefit songwriters and musicians, according to a statement released by the Council of the European Union. Unfortunately, this motivation may not achieve its end. A New York Times article on the topic predicted that only 4 percent of financial benefits from the extension will benefit musicians like those mentioned in the statement. Instead, 72% will go into the pockets of the record labels and the rest will go to superstar acts.
“This is extremely good news for record companies and collection agencies, but bad news for artists,” said the singer Sandie Shaw, who along with Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead is one of the leaders of the Featured Artists Coalition, a British group that advocates for musicians’ rights. “It means they have 20 more years in servitude to contracts that are no longer appropriate to a digital age.”
There is no provision in EU copyright law similar to the US “termination rights,”so musicians cannot reclaim their assigned works. The directive vaguely assured that it “foresees measures” to guarantee that musicians “actually benefit from the term extension and may recuperate their rights subject to certain conditions,” and does include ”a “use it or lose it” clause that allows artists to reclaim ownership rights to recordings, but only after 50 years and only if a recording is no longer available commercially. It also sets up a new fund for payments to session musicians and a “clean slate” provision that is supposed to wipe out musicians’ debts to their labels.”
EU member states must put the extension into effect within two years.
For more information, check out this Digital Music News article.