U.K. won't pursue EC copyright extension

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LONDON -- The U.K. government said Tuesday that it will not press the European Commission to extend the copyright term on sound recordings from the current 50 years to beyond 70 years.

The decision delivered a harsh blow to the music industry, which had campaigned to protect artists' and labels' copyrights for the longer term.

"Thousands of musicians have no pensions and rely on royalties to support themselves," the Who's Roger Daltrey said. "These people helped to create one of Britain's most successful industries, poured money into the British economy and enriched people's lives. They are not asking for a handout, just a fair reward for their creative endeavors."

The U.K. music industry vowed to push ahead with its campaign for the extension.

In the 18-page response, the government said that it will not budge from recommendations outlined in the Treasury-commissioned Gowers Review, which supported the 50-year term be retained.

"An independent report, commissioned by the European Commission as part of its ongoing work in reviewing the copyright acquis, also considered the issue of term. It reached the same overall conclusion as the Gowers Review," the report said.

"Taking account for the findings of these reports, which carefully considered the impact on the economy as a whole, and without further substantive evidence to the contrary, it does not seem appropriate for the government to press the commission for action at this stage."

Representatives from industry trade groups the BPI, the IFPI, PPL/VPL, Musicians' Union and AIM -- plus a string of artists -- responded with a single statement to the government's "negative verdict."

"We will continue to put forward the strong case for fair copyright in Europe," BPI CEO Geoff Taylor said. "It is profoundly disappointing that we are forced to do so without the backing of the British government."

Fran Nevrkla, chairman and CEO of collecting society PPL/VPL, said the government's response was a "massive disappointment" and slammed the move as discrimination against musicians and labels.

"This announcement effectively makes all performers and record companies second-class citizens in the copyright environment," Nevrkla said. "This deliberate continuing discrimination is hard to understand because it cannot be justified."

"It seems unjust to deny U.K. musicians and record labels the same lifetime benefits from their work that other creators enjoy in both the music industry and in other creative industries," said Alison Wenham, chair and CEO of AIM, which represents the U.K. independent record sector.

Under chairman John Whittingdale, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in May recommended that the government apply its influence on the European Commission to extend the copyright term. The Gowers Review was published in December.
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