Note to U.K. on copyrights

Longer term for recordings urged

London — The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has recommended to the U.K. government that the term of copyright on sound recordings be extended beyond its current 50-year term.

The copyright term should be "extended to at least 70 years to provide reasonable certainty that an artist will be able to derive benefit from a recording throughout his or her lifetime," the committee said Wednesday in its long-anticipated document on intellectual property.

"We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright, which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not," the committee noted in its document titled "New Media and the Creative Industries."

The report is the culmination of an 18-month inquiry into the effects of new technology on creative content.

It effectively rebukes the findings of the government-commissioned Gowers Review of intellectual property, which recommended in its publication in December that the European Commission should not change the status quo and ought to retain the current 50-year term.

The committee document said Gowers' review "failed to take account of the moral right of creators to choose to retain ownership and control of their own intellectual property."

British trade bodies have welcomed the report's recommendations. "The Select Committee has conducted a thorough and rigorous investigation and should be commended for the quality of their report," said Fran Nevrkla, chairman and CEO of PPL and VPL, which had lobbied rigorously for an extension to the copyright term. "They have recommended extending copyright term for performers and producers to bring them in line with other creators. Calls to extend copyright term have now been backed by 75 MPs across the political parties, and when the government responds to the Select Committee, we hope they will show their support for musicians and the record industry."

IFPI chairman and CEO John Kennedy noted that the committee had "given a ringing endorsement for fair treatment of the U.K. music industry."

Added the BPI's CEO Geoff Taylor, "We urge the government to respond positively to the Select Committee and now make the case in Europe for fair copyright protection for British performers and record companies."

British Music Rights CEO Emma Pike also weighed in. "The committee clearly grasped the scale of the challenge for the creative industries that arises from advances in digital technology," she said. "The time has come, however, for a change of emphasis in how government and the music sector tackles piracy. Tougher penalties for those who infringe copyright are not the answer; instead, we need to be able to demonstrate the upside of licensing systems for all involved."

The committee's far-ranging report covered a raft of related IP issues. Among its other recommendations, the publication called for new measures to help tackle piracy, urged ISPs and Internet search-based businesses to do more to discourage piracy and suggested that the government should draw up a new exemption permitting copying within domestic premises for domestic use.

Lars Brandle is global news editor at Billboard.
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