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27th Apr 2017

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UK rejects push for longer copyright in the EU

The music industry has reacted with anger after the UK government refused to pursue at EU level a longer copyright term on sound recordings beyond the current 50 years.

Musicians and record labels criticized ministers in the department for culture, media and sport on Tuesday (24 July) for rejecting an appeal by a committee of MPs, to lobby the European Commission to increase the copyright term to at least 70 years.

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They argued that refusing to fight for a longer royalties lifespan for music tracks, which some musicians describe as their pension provision, showed performers were seen as "second-class citizens".

"Thousands of musicians have no pensions and rely on royalties to support themselves. These people helped to create one of Britain's most successful industries, poured money into the British economy and enriched people's lives," said singer Roger Daltrey from The Who.

"They are not asking for a handout, just a fair reward for their creative endeavours," he said in a statement after the UK decision.

EU regulation

Under EU rules, authors of songs and their families benefit from copyright for the whole of their lives plus 70 years, while performers of songs and their producers benefit for just 50 years from the date of recording.

In the US, performers and producers hold recording rights for between 95 and 120 years, while performers in Mexico get 75 years and 70 years in Chile, Brazil, Peru and Turkey.

Artists like the former Beatles-members and their families will therefore still for some time hold the copyright to the Beatles songs they wrote, but their and the record label's right to the interpretations of the songs will start to expire in 2013.

The UK campaign for a longer copyright term recently gathered momentum as the UK's major rock'n'roll hits from the late 1950s – such as Cliff Richard's first hit single "Move It" from 1958 – will fall out of copyright for the performer.

"The UK is a world-beating source of great music, so it is frustrating that on the issue of copyright term the government has shown scant respect for British artists and the UK recording industry," said John Kennedy, the head of IFPI which represents the recording industry worldwide.

"Some of the greatest works of British music will soon be taken away from the artists who performed them and the companies that invested in them. Extending copyright term would promote vital investment in young talent and new music, all of which will help to secure the UK's future as an exciting music market," he added.

No benefits

But the UK government suggests that extending the copyright period would neither benefit the majority of performers nor increase incentives to produce new works.

"An extension would not benefit the majority of performers, most of whom have contractual relationship requiring their royalties be paid back to the record label," the government report concluded.

It also said that an extension would lead to increased costs to industry - such as those who use music, whether to provide ambience in a shop or restaurant or for TV or radio broadcasting - and to consumers who would have to pay royalties for longer.

An independent report, commissioned by the European Commission as part of its ongoing work in reviewing copyright legislation, came to a similar conclusion in November 2006.

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