UK Music Copyright Laws May Be Extended
Wednesday, May 16, 2007; 3:51 PM
LONDON -- British copyright laws should be extended to prevent aging artists such as Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard from missing out on royalties later in life, an influential committee of British lawmakers said Wednesday.
McCartney, 64, and Richard, 66, are among some 7,000 people, including backing singers, who are on the verge of losing royalties for their early music releases because of a 50-year limit on copyright for sound recordings.
They want Britain to match the 95-year copyright period granted for recorded music in the United States, which would allow them to benefit financially from an Internet-driven revival of back catalogs.
The House of Commons culture committee, which is made up of lawmakers from all political parties, struck a middle ground, proposing that the copyright be extended to at least 70 years.
"We strongly believe that copyright represents a moral right of a creator to choose to retain ownership and control of their own intellectual property," the committee said.
"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," they added, referring to contrasting laws that allow families of composers and songwriters to keep the copyright to their compositions for 70 years after they die.
The committee's report clashes with an earlier government-commissioned review, which backed the present 50-year rule because it believed extending copyright could hurt Britain's trade balance and provide little benefit to performers or consumers.
The so-called Gowers report was heavily criticized within the industry for focusing on the economic effects rather than the moral rights of artists.
"The Gowers report was far too long on economic theory and far too short on fairness to British copyright holders," said John Kennedy, chairman of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. "The committee ... has backed two simple principles _ that U.K. performers must get a term of copyright protection comparable to composers, and that Britain must not be left with weaker copyright protection than its international partners."