Friday fantasies

AnSome fresh events have been added this week for the delectation of the IPKat's conference- and seminar-going readers. Don't forget to check them out -- and have a lovely weekend!

The recording industry has
moved on since Cliff Richards'
youth, but dogs have remained
much the same ...
In case anyone still thinks he hasn't noticed it yet, the IPKat wants to record that, yes, he is aware of the acceptance in principle by the European Commission of the proposal to extend from fifty to seventy years the period for which sound recordings are copyright-protected.  You can read about it on the BBC here. If the Kat were not speechless, he would remind everyone of the oft-repeated British mantra that copyright reform must be evidence-based if it is to be accepted. Merpel says, don't be so silly -- it's perfectly logical: if the duration of copyright in authors' works had to be extended from death + 50 to death + 70 years in the European Union because authors and their heirs live longer than they used to, it's quite reasonable to suggest that copyright in sound recordings should be extended from 50 to 70 because they last longer than they used to.  There's another point to note: this extension is closely associated with one-time pop star Cliff Richard, whose initials also stand for copy right.  It's understood that the registered designs lobby is now planning to recruit Roger Daltry ...

One audacious plank in the TPP, the
affirmation of monopoly rights in functional
toy shapes, was dropped after Lego said
its next theme park was to be a full-scale
working model of the Pacific Ocean made
out of its own bricks ...

What with the US round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement underway in Chicago, intellectual property and information policy experts from around the world have released their Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest.  This challenges the dominant direction of the negotiations on intellectual property in US trade agreements. The Declaration, created through a consultative process with over 180 experts from 35 countries in six continents, criticises an "unprecedented expansion of the concentrated legal authority exercised by intellectual property rights holders" through recent trade agreements, and calls for new efforts to "re-articulate the public interest dimension in intellectual property law and policy", which is quite a grown-up thing to do and requires both more thought and self-restraint than the popular position, which is that you can just help yourself to what you want, especially it's available online.  If you support the Declaration, there's a sign-on here. There's nowhere to sign if you don't disagree or are agnostic.  The Kat thanks his friend Ronan Deazley for the nudge and Aurelia J. Schultz for posting this piece so speedily on the 1709 Blog.

Sadly, the youth of today
just don't dress up for law
conferences like they
used to ....
If you want to get away from all the arguments about copyright term, you take take refuge in the far more glamorous company of the speakers' panel for the Handbags at Dawn: Intellectual Property Law and the Fashion Industry conference, which takes place in little less than a fortnight, on 22 September, in Central London:
An IPKat team blogger will be in the chair,
And lots of contention will be in the air --
Copy this style? If only I dare!
It's worth an attempt if my usage is fair.
Be sued for infringement? You get quite a scare,
And what colour soles for the shoes that I wear?
Of all these key issues you'll soon be aware
If you come to the conference. So, see you there?
This conference is supported by the Art & Artifice weblog, which was launched this year and attracting a bright and faithful following.

Turning stone into gold
was no problem -- except
when it came to repeating
the experiment in court
If you find fashion too pleasurable, hang around for a few weeks and you can sample the harsh realities of "International High-Tech Patent Litigation". If it's not actually coming to a Court near you, you can still sample it on 27 September in the wilds of Central London. The speakers include Mr Justice Arnold and Nokia's Richard Vary; you can find further details here. The venue is the DoubleTree Hilton, Central London.  Merpel adds, the name of this venue has a deep-seated pyschological impact: "DoubleTree" rhymes with "Trouble Free", thus sending out a message that the hotel is in no way connected with Fawlty Towers.
Friday fantasies Friday fantasies Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, September 09, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Am I the only one who sees a glaring non sequitur here?

    "it's perfectly logical: if the duration of copyright in authors' works had to be extended from death + 50 to death + 70 years in the European Union because authors longer than they used to"

  2. Of course it's a non sequitur -- I was poking a little gentle fun at the sort of institutional reasoning that besets IP decision-making in Europe!

  3. I think the progressive extension of copyright term is a reflection of the fact that old recordings are now valuable commercial commodities.

    When I was a child in the 1950's no-one was interested in last year's records, let alone the last decade's records or records from 50 years previously. In the 1960's hardly anyone played or heard on the radio, recordings from 50 years earlier [circa 1910]. How different it is today where there are radio stations that play nothing but records made 40 to 50-years ago!

  4. I think Merpel's comment "it's quite reasonable to suggest that copyright in sound recordings should be extended from 50 to 70 because they last longer than they used to." is most instructive. It is instructive because it is completely untrue. The commercial 78 rpm shellac record has a track record (no pun intended) of about 116 years: you can play a record of the 1890s and even enjoy it. The commercial vinyl record (introduced 1949) survives as a low-key but insistent format (not really supported by large record companies since ca. 1985), but all mechanical records are worn by the use of pickups, so they disappear by use. The music cassette was active as a distribution format from ca 1970, but it was gone (except in countries with less money to spend) by 1990, because the CD had had its breakthrough in ca. 1985. However, all digital formats only exist at the whim of the manufacturers, and the CD is quickly being replaced by the distribution of data-reduced format via the web.

    The essence is that the long copyright terms would mean that unless the rights holder distributes copies of the old recordings on the continuously changing new formats, the content will disappear for many years, because they can/will also deny making the content available to smaller labels.

    Hence a longer copyright term ought to be made contingent on continued availability, and rights ought to be forfeited if that turns out not to be the case. And orphan works must obviously also be made available.

    Sitting on your right and/or asking exorbitant amounts for the right to use is an abuse of monopoly.

    Kind regards,

    George Brock-Nannestad

  5. I recall a certain lobbyist putting the "life expectancy has increased" argument to me a year or so ago, to justify the increase from 14 years to life+70 for normal copyright, and it made me look up some rough figures.

    The life expectancy at the moment, is about 80 (but let's be generous and call it 90). In the 1700s, it was around 40, so using that figure would give us copyright today of 32 years (maybe renewable to 64).

    Of course, that was the life expectancy at birth and, at the time, there were high infant mortality rates (those affected are unlikely to be authors benefiting from copyright). The life expectancy at 21 was around 65, and using that gives us copyright duration today of 20 years (with a 20 year renewal).

    But we wouldn't want facts or figures to get in the way of policy, would we...

    But this ignores the real flaw with life expectancy (or the updated 'age/generation gap') arguments; they require copyright to be about getting a pension and being 'set for life' (and the life of children, and grandchildren), rather than being a reasonable return on their work done and investment.

  6. The life expectancy of music industry lawyers, lobbyists and executives is probably considerably longer than that of recording artists on the whole. Lennon, Winehouse, Jackson, Presley, Coltrane, and countless other less known artists come to mind.

    And we all know just how incredibly willing and eager the record companies are to find aging and indigent artists and to ensure that their just royalties are distributed and accounted for.

    It will be amazing how the record industry lawyers and accountants will discover that it now takes just about life + 70 years to "recoup" all of those enormous investments in production and distribution costs without which the artists could not possibly have been "discovered".

    And how they need this money to discover the "next" Beatles or whoever.

    So - they will begin the next campaign for life + 95.

  7. The amendment Directive was adopted at yesterday's meeting of the Council:

  8. Commissioner Barnier summed up the position very well.

    "Today's decision to increase the term of protection for musicians' copyright from 50 to 70 years will make a real difference for performers. With increasing life expectancy, the previous 50-year protection term was clearly insufficient. Despite the fact that their music and songs are still popular, today many performers are left without income when they are older. The increase to a 70-year term means performers can still receive remuneration when their music is played once they have retired. Today's agreement gives performers the recognition and reward they justly deserve for their creative contributions to society and stimulates creation for future generations of music fans".

  9. Is it really that unreasonable to expect musicians to do some work between the ages of 20 and 60?


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