Lurking quietly among the European Union's various IP legislation goals for the last two years is a proposal to extend the term of copyright in sound recordings and performances from 50 to 70 years, starting from the date of fixation or publication.
After the vote, silence ... until now
Then everything went relatively quiet. Non-European readers might assume that, once the European Parliament voted in favour of a Directive, the law would be adopted, subject perhaps to some sort of Grand Vizier character applying a signature or quasi-monarchical seal to a suitably ornate document, but European lawmaking is rarely so straightforward (or colourful, alas).
|The legislative triangle of the EU (by Ssolbergj)|
Now, due to the reported thawing of Denmark's position, possibly due to global warming [Merpel says: or as a result of interested lobby groups and countries applying the heat?] the proposal has come out of the refrigerator. According to the agenda for tomorrow's COREPER meeting, published yesterday, the proposal to amend Directive 2006/116/EC (that's the Term Directive to you and me) is up for deliberation as item 18, suggesting it will be back on the Agenda for the Council to decide before too long (thanks to Alexander von Mühlendahl for additional clarification).
Incidentally, a group of 40 MEPs, led by Swedish Pirate Party representative Christian Engström, had tried to snatch the ball back from Council in recent months, relying on a procedural mechanism which allows a newly elected Parliament to reconsider items voted by the previously dissolved Parliament, but he reported yesterday in his blog that his attempt had been turned down, leaving the way open for Council to adopt the proposal.
The UK position: Do Ministers listen to Professors?
Various commentators, including Mr Engström, note with some disappointment that the UK appears committed to supporting the term extension, despite having commissioned the Hargreaves Review which advised exactly the opposite. Can this be true, the IPKat wonders?
|The Hargreaves Report|
Professor Hargreaves noted that "IP policy has not always been developed in a way consistent with the economic evidence", and as an example of such legislative short-sightedness he cites exactly these proposals to extend the term of copyright in sound recordings Regarding such extensions he says:
However, the Hargreaves Report then catches itself in the act of giving advice on something outside its remit, shrugs its shoulders, and makes it pretty clear which way the advice would point if only someone had thought to ask:
Economic evidence is clear that the likely deadweight loss to the economy exceeds any additional incentivising effect which might result from the extension of copyright term beyond its present levels. This is doubly clear for retrospective extension to copyright term, given the impossibility of incentivising the creation of already existing works, or work from artists already dead.
Despite this, there are frequent proposals to increase term, such as the current proposal to extend protection for sound recordings in Europe from 50 to 70 or even 95 years. The UK Government assessment found it to be economically detrimental. An international study found term extension to have no impact on output.
Legitimate questions of culture, fairness and “just reward” for creators also arise, and have tended to dominate the debate on copyright issues. Indeed, they were explicitly cited by the previous Government as justification for extension of copyright term, despite the economic evidence. These questions are clearly significant, and it is not part of the Review’s task to determine how they should be resolved. We simply invite Government to consider that as copyright becomes increasingly economically important, it is vital that economic considerations are fully weighed in the balance. ... If the current imbalance in the debate on copyright is allowed to continue, the economic price will be high.
|Culture Minister Ed Vaizey © Jon Jordan|
And while we are in the area of copyright, I would just like to add that the Government will continue to support moves in Europe to extend copyright in sound recordings.So while Hargreaves (almost) said that extending term to 70 years was a bad idea, and certainly counselled against taking this matter lightly, the UK Government has nevertheless signalled that it will vote for term extension when it comes before the Council.
This Kat finds it disappointing that, despite all the talk of a brave new evidence-based method of making policy, there has been no appreciable change in the UK Government's approach to the wisdom of ever-increasing copyright terms. This would seem to be a prime candidate for policy reversal or reconsideration, if Professor Hargreaves is to be believed.