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Extending copyright protection for musicians - 23/07/2008

A drummer and trumpeter on a boat

New commission proposal seeks to ensure performers still benefit financially from their earliest records, long after they first went on sale.

Europe’s most treasured singers are those that have been entertaining us for decades. Cliff Richard, Charles Aznavour, Nana Mouskouri and Julio Iglesias - all have been performing for close to half a century. Current copyright laws are only valid for 50 years however, so a singer stops receiving royalties for their oldest performances at the time when they may need the money most.

The proposal would provide performers with an additional income to the tune of €150 to €2000 per year. While this may not be much for stadium-fillers such as the above, it would make a huge difference to the lives of session performers – those musicians hired for one recording only and receiving a single payment.

The commission’s proposal envisages extending the term of protection from 50 to 95 years. As well as the performer, the record producer would also benefit from a change to the law. Both would receive a payment every time a recording is played on the radio, or in public places such as bars and shopping centres.

A 95-year protection period would bridge the income gap that some performers face in older age, and also bring music copyright laws into line with those for writers. Increasing income security for singers should help ensure they stay in Europe, rather than moving to countries with stricter copyright laws.

Protection would also be extended for music written by more than one author – most music in practice. Copyright for such pieces would not expire until 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.

The proposal is accompanied by a consultation on copyright in the knowledge economy , looking at how best to disseminate knowledge for the benefit of the economy in an increasingly digitised world. The consultation will establish whether current copyright laws offer sufficient protection to ‘knowledge products’, such as the results of scientific research, and whether authors and publishers are encouraged to share this knowledge.

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