A handful of major record labels are trying to break a fifty year-old promise. Musicians and their fans will not be the only victims.
Copyright in sound recordings currently lasts for 50 years. An independent review (the "Gowers review") commissioned and endorsed by the UK government says it should remain at 50 years. Yet the recording industry continues to demand that this term be extended. But term extension would be an injustice to European musicians and musical culture, and may harm our economy.
If you agree that copyright term on sound recordings should not be extended past 50 years, please, email your MEP today.
Copyright is a bargain. In exchange for their investment in creating and distributing sound recordings to the public, copyright holders are granted a limited monopoly during which are allowed to control the use of those recordings. This includes the right to pursue anyone who uses their recordings without permission. But when this time is up, these works join Goethe, Hugo and Shakespeare in the proper place for all human culture – the public domain. In practice, because of repeated term extensions and the relatively short time in which sound recording techniques have been available, there are no public domain sound recordings.
This situation is about to change, as tracks from the first golden age of recorded sound reach the end of their copyright term. The public domain is about to benefit from its half of this bargain. Seminal soul, reggae, and rock and roll recordings will soon be freed from legal restrictions, allowing anyone (including the performers themselves and their heirs) to preserve, reissue, and remix them.
Major record labels want to keep control of sound recordings well beyond the current 50 year term so that they can continue to make marginal profits from the few recordings that are still commercially viable half a century after they were laid down. Yet if the balance of copyright tips in their favour, it will damage the music industry as a whole, and also individual artists, libraries, academics, businesses and the public.
The labels lobby for change, but have yet to publicly present any compelling economic evidence to support their case. What evidence does exist shows clearly that extending term will discourage innovation, stunt the reissues market, and irrevocably damage future artists' and the general public's access to their cultural heritage.
As Europe looks to the creative industries for its economic future, it is faced with a choice. It can agree to extend the copyright term in sound recordings for the sake of a few major record labels. Or it can allow sound recordings to enter the public domain at the end of fifty years for the benefit of future innovation, future prosperity and the public good.
If you agree that copyright term on sound recordings should not be extended past 50 years, please, sign this petition today. Together, we can defeat copyright term extension.