EU Commission wants 95 year copyright on recordings

According to European commissioner Charlie McCreevy, performing artists should no longer be the 'poor cousins' of the music business, and is proposing an increase in the term of copyright for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years. In a press release issued today, he is quoted as saying:

"I strongly believe that copyright protection for Europe's performers represents a moral right to control the use of their work and earn a living from their performances. I have not seen a convincing reason why a composer of music should benefit from a term of copyright which extends to the composer's life and 70 years beyond, while the performer should only enjoy 50 years, often not even covering his lifetime It is the performer who gives life to the composition and while most of us have no idea who wrote our favourite song – we can usually name the performer."
Charlie intends to bring forward a proposal to extend the term of protection for sound recordings to 95 years. This proposal should apparently be ready for adoption by the Commission before the summer break of 2008.

The IPKat sees the dead hand of copyright trying to extend its grasping fingers yet again, having previously failed to persuade Andrew Gowers and the UK government that such an extension could be justified (see IPKat comments here and here). If Charlie cannot see any reason why composers should be receiving royalties up to 70 years after they die, the IPKat wonders why the debate isn't instead about whether to reduce this term, rather than extending the terms of other rights?
EU Commission wants 95 year copyright on recordings EU Commission wants 95 year copyright on recordings Reviewed by David Pearce on Thursday, February 14, 2008 Rating: 5


  1. I agree with your comments on this one, as did Hugh Laddie in his inaugural speech as a professor of Law at UCL. Isn't the issue here the "right to earn a living", which is pretty hard to do when you are dead....

  2. If the real intention to to grant parity with authors' rights, then why 95 years? Why not life + 70?

    McCreevy's proposals mightn't be too popular with record companies: they'd have to administer the royalty fund and performers could switch to another label if the company doesn't rerelease their songs (I wonder if this last bit has been thought out - all very well for the performers, but what about the copyright holders in the music and lyrics?)

  3. And while we are at it, why does unregistered design right expire after just 3 years? Is it OK for someone to copy my design after such a short time? Ninety five years sounds better. Software patents? Two hundred years will do nicely.

  4. He did not only proposed help for the 'poor cousins' but he also announced the re-launch of a consultation process on Private Copying Levies. Is he trying to balance his popularity with record companies - as suggested by Ilanah?

  5. Unregistered design right expires after 3 years to give you an incentive to file for a registered design. Unfortunately, you can only get up to 25 years. Patent lifetimes begin to seem quite short...

  6. I also agree with your comments here. Reading Mr McCreevy's quote, I'd be tempted to interrupt when he gets to the word "beyond" and say "Then why the heck do you do it, then?"

    Even footballers, the new gods of our age, don't get paid now for matches they played over fifty years ago.

  7. I don't believe that the issue is "the right to earn a living". Performers and artists have the right, in the same way as anyone else, to become lawyers, dentists, plumbers, publicans.

    The issue is one of enriching the corpus of art, by enabling people to earn a living practising it.

    The distinction is important: copyright exists for the common good, not for the good of artists. Thus, determining what may be protected, in what way and for how long should be answered with reference to the the benefit to society and not to the owner of an asserted right.

    The desirability of the existence of works of art is justification for their copyright protection. However, at least historically, the value of works of fine artists and composers is often not recognised or perhaps realised during the lifetime of the artist. In contrast, performers typically perform in return for the immediate benefit they receive.

    It seems logical that more additional incentive, perhaps in the form of copyright protection, might be appropriate to encourage the former than the latter.

  8. Mupple

    Who is going to judge the benefit to society? Do you get a longer copyright term for a "good" as opposed to a "bad" painting? The value of works of artists, writers and composers is often not recognised before they die because those artists, writers and composers are innovators and almost by definition ahead of their times. It is often only in retrospect that the value of such works is recognised. Stronger copyright protection will not "incentivise" writers, artists and composers.


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