Friday, 15 April 2011

Copyright Extension Time - Act Now

It's that time again - the push to get the copyright protection for sound recordings to 70 years is back on the cards via the European Council.  It is questionable as to whether or not such an extension will benefit many musicians. This was something I was keen to oppose back in November of 2009, so long time readers of this blog will be familiar with the arguments. If not check out the video below for details:


The most likely practical outcome of the extension is that material recorded by (now deceased) artists from more than 50 years ago will no longer make it's way into the public domain for it to be repurposed or remixed free from licensing obligations.  There's plenty of independent analysis to support a rejection of the extension terms (see the links below).


You can make a difference by writing to your MEP now.  The Open Rights Group have helpfully created an prewritten email template for you to send and they'll even find your MEPs for you.  Click through for info and support and do your bit.

This is the edited version of the email I sent my MEPs:


I am writing to you about the European Commission proposal to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years.  
I am extremely concerned about the possible passing of this Directive. The economic evidence is stacked against the proposal. And it will benefit only a small number of artists and businesses - 96% of the returns will go to the big labels and a minority of the biggest artists. It will result in large parts of our cultural history being locked away. Leading IP professors, the UK government's 'Gowers  Review' of IP, and independent economic analysts have all said that extending the term of protection is unwise. 
The Financial Times called the proposal 'disgraceful' in an editorial in 2009. The University of Cambridge's Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law concluded that 'it would be particularly inadvisable, given our present state of knowledge, for a rational policy-maker to extend the term of copyright in sound'.  
I wrote to my MEPs about a similar matter in November 2009 and since then a number of independent academic studies into copyright extension terms have been published in which they've questioned the value of increased powers, for example, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) project headed up by Joe Karaganis entitled 'Media Piracy in Emerging Economies or the work of Bart Cammaerts and Bingchun Meng of the LSE.  I will be co-conveening a series of ESF-funded exploratory workshops in Leuven, Belgium this week with several other academics from the social sciences, law and computer sciences in which we will be seeking to foster a more empirical approach to data in this area and the effects of policy changes. 
Since the Directive passed in 2009 a new Parliament has been elected. However, I am concerned that it may now pass through the Council without any fresh scrutiny or debate. I would therefore urge you to sign the request for 'renewed referral' being tabled by MEP Christian Engström (of the "Greens - European Free Alliance" group), and to oppose this damaging proposal. 
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