1st Dec 2021

European Parliament backs music rights extension

  • The 20-year extension is less than the European Commission had originally proposed (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Parliament on Thursday voted in favour of extending copyright protection on music recordings from 50 to 70 years.

The measure, adopted by 377 votes to 178 votes, will apply to both new and old recordings.

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The 20 year extension is less than the original European Commission proposal, which had suggested a 45 year extension to 95 years.

The copyright protection means that musicians and singers receive money every time their work is played. Under the current system, this right expires after 50 years and they no longer receive this income.

The change is relevant to the internet era, where back catalogues of older songs are becoming more widely available to customers in online stores.

The legislation now goes back to member states for consideration, with several countries expected to oppose the rights extension.

Irish MEP Brian Crowley, in charge of the legislation in the EU assembly, said the 70 year proposal was a deliberate compromise in order to try and get agreement among national governments.

MEPs also approved a "use it or lose it clause" enabling performers to regain the rights to a sound recording after 50 years if a producer does not market it.

In addition, MEPs agreed that record producers each year should be obliged to place 20 percent of the extra revenue they gain from the copyright extension into a fund for session musicians.

"Some might argue that European creators are overprotected. Those who rely on copyright for their income would beg to differ. If artists stay in the music recording business because it pays to do so, consumers would enjoy more variety as a consequence," said EU internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who initiated the proposal.

"Europe's performers often live a very precarious existence at the best of times. This proposal ensures that performers can, in their late life, recoup a share in the income they generate," he continued.

But critics of the proposal say it will only serve to line the pockets of big recording companies.

"Parliament's votes will be music to the ears of the big record companies and top-earning artists," said Austrian Green MEP Eva Lichtenberger.

Sharon Bowles, a UK liberal MEP, said that the move "leaves recording companies with the lion's share of everything."

Once the law is agreed by member states, they will have two years to put it into place. MEPs asked the commission to make an assessment of how the law is working three years after it comes into force, particularly concerning the digital market.

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