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Better deal for European musicians - 20/02/2008

Pop group the “Black Eyed Peas” on stage at Werchter rock festival, 2004 (Belgium) © Laurent Van Brussel

European Commission wants greater protection for performers' rights and review of copyright levies on music recording devices.

In the European music industry, the various categories of artist are dealt with differently. While composers enjoy lifetime protection on their work that continues for 70 years after their death, performers have to make do with a mere 50‑year copyright – which, given lengthening average lifespans, might well expire before they do.

Under existing laws, thousands of musicians and singers from the 1950s and 60s are, in the next ten years, set to lose the royalties they currently receive every time one of their songs is played. For the lesser-known among them, such income is often the only form of pension they have.

So the commission wants to see:

  • the duration of copyright protection for European artists extended from 50 to 95 years, and
  • artists able to move to a new record label if their old one refuses to reissue recordings of their work during the extended period.

Music lovers have no reason to worry, as these measures are not expected to affect prices.

EU single market commissioner Charlie McCreevy also wants to review how royalties - and especially private copying levies - are collected and used. These levies are a way of compensating artists for the income they miss out on because of private copying. The commissioner has decided to launch consultations with all sections of the industry, to see what practical solutions can be found.

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