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Copyright extension specifics announced

By | Published on Friday 1 November 2013


And so the copyright in sound recordings in the UK now runs for 70 years, people. Rather than the 50 years that was previously the rule.

As much previously reported, the UK record industry lobbied hard for years to get the copyright term enjoyed by sound recordings increased, wary that the still incredibly lucrative sixties catalogue would soon be out of copyright, meaning anyone could copy, distribute or adapt the records without getting permission or paying a fee to the record industry.

The labels argued that it was unfair that the sound recording copyright in the US runs for 95 years, especially as the music business becomes increasingly global. Also songwriters and their publishers enjoy a much longer copyright term, because the copyrights in lyrics and musical composition run for the life of the creator plus seventy years.

And sound recording copyrights expiring at 50 years affects aging musicians as well as labels, the corporates pointed out, because of a neighbouring right under European copyright law that gives recording artists a small cut of public performance royalties generated by records on which they worked, oblivious of their contracts with the label who released the track.

Mainly because of the latter argument, the UK government came out in favour of copyright extension in 2009, though it took two more years to persuade the rest of the European Union (copyright terms have to be consistent across the EU). But in 2011 a European Directive was passed, and every country in the union was told to increase their recording copyright terms by today.

Because many politicians agreed to the extension because of the benefits to musicians rather than labels (even though labels will benefit the most), the Directive requested that each country introduce measures to ensure artists got some extra kick backs during the extra 20 years of copyright protection. The specifics of those kick backs in the UK have been in development for most of the year, and this morning the Intellectual Property Office announced the following initiatives…

– A “session fund” paying many performers (such as session musicians) 20% of revenues from sales of their recordings.

– A “clean slate” provision, whereby a producer may not make deductions from payments to performers (such as advances of royalties) from publication of a recording.

– A “use it or lose it” clause – which allows performers and musicians to claim back their performance rights in sound recordings if they are not being commercially exploited.

Confirming the new measures, IP Minister James Younger told CMU: “The new rules bring lasting benefits for our world class recording artists. These changes demonstrate the government’s ongoing commitment to, and support for, our creative industries – who are worth billions to our economy. Artists who performed on sound recordings will benefit from this extension of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years. The changes should help ensure that musicians are rewarded for their creativity and hard work throughout their careers”.

Meanwhile Jo Dipple of cross-industry trade body UK Music said: “UK Music welcomes today’s announcement on extending the term of copyright for sound recordings. We are pleased that the government is implementing changes that acknowledge the importance of copyright to performers and record companies. This change will mean creators can rightfully continue to make a living from their intellectual property and works”.

As previously reported, although most of the really profitable catalogues of British rock music will now get an extra 20 years of copyright protection, The Beatles’ first record ‘Love Me Do’ fell out of copyright at the start of the year. The extension will not be applied retrospectively, so that track and its b-side remain in the public domain.