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Monday, 30 April 2007

PPL laments 'copyright gap'

The Times reports on an album that is being distributed to MPs to highlight the fact that the performers’ rights are going to expire on a number of popular tracks in the near future. The 50 year term is out of step with the life plus 70 year term afforded to those who write the music and lyrics. Called ‘Copyright Gap’, the album features tracks from a range of artists dating from 1957 to 2006 and has been compiled by PPL. Amongst the contributions made by the artists or their families are Lonnie Donegan’s Cumberland Gap, the performers’ rights in which expire this year.

The IPKat thought that this one had been put to rest with Andrew Gowers’ rebuff of those who lobby for extended performers’ rights. Frankly, the IPKat is unimpressed. Mrs Donegan says that

“His [her late husband Lonnie Donegan’s] recordings of Rock Island Line and Cumberland Gap are effectively worthless once the copyright term ends. It’s not even as though they made us rich. People say I must be a millionaire but, no, the royalties were just enough to get by.” Since when, asks the IPKat, was there a right to be made rich?

The rest of the working population doesn’t have an automatic right to a pension, over and above the state pension. They either pay into an employer’s pension or, if self-employed, pay into one themselves.

7 comments:

David said...

Yet again, the mainstream media gets confused between performers' rights and sound recording rights. The former were not even available until 1988, so it's a bit rich for performers to complain that they will stop receiving money for rights that never even existed when the recordings were originally made. What they want appears to be adequately summed up in that song by Dire Straits (for which Mark Knopfler will continue receiving royalties until 70 years after his death): money for nothing.

Anonymous said...

At the link below you can read Sir Cliff Richard's submission to the EU; their hearts did not blead!

http://forum.europa.eu.int/Public/irc/markt/markt_consultations/library?l=/copyright_neighbouring/legislation_copyright/cliff_richard_enpdf/_EN_1.0_&a=d

Anonymous said...

It is a bit misleading to say that performers' rights were not available until 1988. The rights now identified as performers' non-property rights came into being in 1988. However, previously the UK had protected performers by way of criminal offences prohibiting the making and using of bootleg recordings. This was regulated by the Dramatic and Musical Performers' Act 1958 (such protection began under the 1925 Act of the same name). Therefore performers' rights did exist before 1988, albeit one paid the performer for consent to avoid a criminal sanction rather than a civil one (or now, more accurately both).

More importantly, however, performers' property rights came into being when the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 1996 came into force (to give effect to the Rental Rights Directive) and so in relation to authorised performances (such as those described in the Times) it is that date rather than 1988 which is germane. In any event, I agree with your overall point, namely that neither Lonnie Donegan nor Sir Cliff was singing for their pensions fifty-one years ago.

David said...

Many thanks, Anonymous, for clarifying that. Perhaps not all of us are fully up to speed on the provisions of the 1925 and 1958 Acts.

Anonymous said...

The music industry campaign, and the Gowers review, have both focussed upon the question of an extension to the term of sound recording copyright (presently 50 years). Sound recording copyright protects the investment of the record company which makes the recording. As Gowers rightly pointed out, an extension would be pure windfall for the record company for the same investment. About the only argument in its favour is parity with the US which now gives a term of 95 years.

Performers' rights are quite separate from the sound recording copyright. They protect the performer not the record company. An extension of the term of the performers' rights (also currently 50 years) involves different considerations to an extension of the term of sound recording copyright - considerations which Gowers failed to consider (mainly because the music industry fails to make the case because its interests do not coincide with those of performers). Among these are that performers need longer protection both to protect their economic interests and to protect their non-economic interests, that there is a strong parallel between the position of arrangers (who get life plus 70 years) and that of performers and that copyright has recently extended from life plus 50 years to life plus 70 years because of greater longevity te logic of which would justify an extension of performers rights to 70 years.

While of course the likes of Cliff Richard do not need an extension, it is a fact that most performers are not at all well remunerated, and many desperately need an income from the continued exploitation of their performances, particularly in new media.

Gerontius said...

If performer's need to maintain their income, they should keep on performing...

If that fails to make them money, the should find another career because nobody can or should be able to make their life-long living from a single performance they gave when they were 20.

David said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Gerontius. All the performers have to do is perform to get another 50 years' worth of rights. This is a good example of why performers' rights are of lesser value than composers' rights, since a performance can be repeated ad infinitum, generating new rights each time. There is no justification to extend performers' rights to equate with the (already far too long) duration of other rights.

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