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Monday, 1 November 2004


The Times reports on the efforts of that well known political activist, Cliff Richard, to get copyright law in the EU altered. As things currently stand, artists’ rights in sound recordings are set to expire 50 years after the recording was made. This time period is almost up for an increasing number of rock and roll songs and the number of recordings that enter the public domain will keep growing. Sir Cliff, together with the BPI and IFPI are calling for the duration of recording rights to be extended in the EU to be extended to 95 years, as is the case in the US. While singer-songwriters remain able to assert their rights in the underlying song at the end of the 50 year period, this is not true of artists such as Sir Cliff who interpret and perform songs written by others. Sir Cliff has argued that the contribution of performers who “breathe life” into songs deserves protection equal to that of the author of the underlying song. He is also concerned that his music will be used for purpose that conflict with his Christian beliefs and expresses concern for performers who rely on one hit song as their sole source of income – a source that will run dry once the recording comes out of copyright. The Times helpfully also lists the rock and roll classics that will come out of copyright (as far as the recordings are concerned) in the next few years.

The IPKat thinks that this is a rather one-sided approach. There are few industries where you can benefit from a good piece of work that you did 50 years ago. Moreover, extending the term from 50 years to 95 years won’t incentivise artists to produce more work. Certainly artists may feel uncomfortable about other people using their work but what, the IPKat asks, is the social benefit of extending the term? He also notes that while rights in the sound recordings expire, in many cases the lyrics and music will remain within copyright. This will stop third parties being able to make free use of the recordings.

Other great things that happened in 1954 here, here and here
Rock and roll chronology here

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