U.K. industry 'disappointed' at EU decision

Commission rejects copyright term extensions

LONDON -- The U.K. music industry has collectively voiced its disappointment, after the Council of the European Union rejected a proposal on term extension for copyright in sound recordings.

A proposal on the term directive, put forward by the Czech presidency of the EU, was discussed at the committee of permanent representatives (COREPER) in Brussels on Friday.

The European Commission had proposed an increase in the term of copyright from 50 years to 95 years, which was backed by the European Parliament's legal affairs committee last month. The U.K. government had put forward the case for an increase to 70 years.

However, there were also issues today surrounding the session fund measure, for which record companies would set aside part of the additional revenues for performers, and the clean slate proposal to prevent the use of previous contractual agreements by labels to deduct money from the additional royalties.

According to British government statement, it voted against because the "current text did not yet give sufficient benefit for performers."

Secretary of state for innovation John Denham said that member states "need more time to consider the details of the proposal and reach an agreement," insisting that "the vote against the proposal today will not end the process."

The Czech presidency confirmed it would continue to work on the proposal to prepare a second reading for possible agreement at later stage. But the music industry was reeling after the vote.

"The British music sector is very disappointed by the absence of agreement on an extension for performers and sound recording rights at the COREPER meeting today, and particularly that our own government, despite its recent positive statements, did not vote in favor of the proposal at this meeting," said a joint statement issued by the Musicians' Union, collecting society PPL, industry trade body the BPI and independent sector trade body AIM.

The statement added: "The U.K. music sector has lived up to its commitments by reaching an agreement, as demanded by ministers, that will deliver real benefits to musicians in an extended term. In continuing to hold out for further changes, the government has not heeded the repeated pleas of the very musicians it claims to support, who strongly encouraged it to vote for the proposal today.

"We call on the government to work with us urgently to match its supportive rhetoric with concrete action, by moving heaven and earth to reach an agreement under this EU presidency that will deliver an improved term of copyright for performers and music companies."

There was also a blocking minority of countries that voted together against the proposal, including Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania.

In his statement, Denham said that today's outcome "will not kill off the proposals to extend copyright term."

He added: "I've always been clear that the U.K. would support an extension to copyright term to deliver real, lasting benefits to performers. We are nearly there. I am personally disappointed that we could not get agreement to go straight to a deal with the parliament but I remain confident that we can get there.

"The U.K. wants to ensure artists and performers are properly recognized, protected and rewarded and receive real, lasting benefits. A number of other member state governments are still unhappy about the proposal. But that's part of the European process. We shouldn't be surprised about it."