The European Parliament has voted to extend the length of recorded music copyright to 70 years from 50 across the European Union, in a move that will delight music industry bosses and campaigners who feel that artists get an unfair revenue share in an mp3 age.
The motion, drafted by Irish MEP Brian Crowley, was passed Thursday by a 377 to 178 majority with 37 abstaining. MEPs had rejected plans to introduce a 95-year extension, with the 70-year rule a compromise brokered by several states including the UK. Member states have been given two years to introduce the legislation to their own legal systems and parliament has asked the EC to review the rules after three years to judge its impact, particular on the digital market. Release.
— No revenue change: Many artists, including Billy Bragg (pictured) and the Featured Artists’ Coalition, will be disappointed that there is no change in the proportion of revenue artists get from music sales. Artists commonly get between five and 15 percent of sales, with music companies traditionally taking the rest to pay for CD production and distribution. But with CD sales in decline and digital distribution increasing many challenge whether labels deserve to benefit on the same terms for an extra 20 years. Or as Bill Bragg told AP, “Now that they no longer have to (make CDs), that money will go straight into their bottom line.”
— MEPs’ opposition: French Socialist MEP Guy Bono voted against the bill and sent us a thunderous communiqué saying the bill was “a gift to the music industry’s failure to adapt to the digital revolution“. Bono, also an active voice in opposing the graduated response bill on forcing ISPs to cut off repeat piracy offenders, argues that artists get about five percent on each CD sold. Eva Lichtenberg, a Green Party MEP from Austria, says: “Parliament’s vote will be music to the ears of the big record companies and top-earning artists” (via Reuters).
— Old and new: The new term will apply to new music as well as old — so it is good news for Cliff Richard, The Beatles and other artists whose 1950s/60s catalogues are about to expire. The extension isn’t automatic, however: artists will have to re-negotiate their deals with labels and licensing agencies to enjoy another 20 years after hitting the 50-year mark. An amendment prevents music companies from using previous agreements to get extra royalties from the extended copyright term.
— Use it or lose it: If music companies don’t make material publicly available after the 50-year mark has passed, artists can file to terminate the original contract entirely and take over copyright control themselves.
— Audio-visual: Parliament repeated its request that the European Commission launches a inquiry into copyright relating to audio and visual content by January 2010, with the aim of passing similar extension legislation.