Music Copyright ‘Pension Extension’ Moves Forward

The extension of copyright on audio recordings from 50 to 95 years in the EU has moved another step closer to realization, with its passage through the legal affairs committee. The action, ostensibly to provide a pension for session musicians, is in reality a multi-million euro windfall for the Big Four record companies.

EU royaltiesThere is little doubt that the the current ‘hot topic’ in copyright circles is the upcoming Pirate Bay trial. The trial, which has been termed ‘the Political Trial of the Decade‘ has been covered extensively by most news sites, including here at TorrentFreak. With the media focus thus diverted, it seems the EU might be trying to slip something through without notice.

The Legal Affairs Committee in the European Parliament has approved the resolution to extend the copyright term, as we have discussed in the past, from 50 years to 95 for recordings. This will now move on to a plenary vote in March.

Opposition for the extension has been considerable. Last month, the Open Rights Group (ORG) held a roundtable with several academics and MEPs, including at least one member of the Legal Affairs Committee, while scathing critiques on the proposal have appeared in influential newspapers over the past year.

Crucially, the main ‘benefit’ touted by Commissioner McCreevy – that it’s for the benefit of session musicians and the like – is significantly weakened by an amendment from the committee that gives the administration over to collecting societies. Of course, that’s assuming you can prove your entitlement to this money. According to veteran producer and musician Mike Collins, speaking at the ORG roundtable, records relating to session musician participation were not common until recently.

Perhaps worst of all, the commission has now been asked by the committee to perform an impact study based around extending the term of video performances by a similar amount. Although the study will doubtless find that there will be little benefit to any but the major content producers in performing such an extension, it will likely be ignored (as the study that said the same thing in this case was ignored) and the proposal will proceed.

There is a slight ray of hope though, in that there is a requirement to review the social situation of artists in 3 years time, and then every 4 years, to see how this has improved things. This might curtail any further extension on this subject, but the non-existent change in artist benefits from this, might prompt them to put things back how they were. Or, they could decide to make the terms even longer….

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