Music recording copyright: EU term extension plans

Green vinyl by Sandy Whitesides, found via the Flickr Free Use Photos pool
Green vinyl by Sandy Whitesides, found via the Flickr Free Use Photos pool

Librarians have to worry about copyright. It’s an awkward thing, trying to balance the legitimate right of our users to make use of intellectual propery with the equally legitimate right of the creators of that property to be rewarded for their effort. In my opinion it’s particularly awkward in the realm of music, lumbered as we are with recorded music and printed music on top of the usual written word. Of course, the law is a bit different for each one, and there’s no easy licences we can buy to make copying music a bit more straightforward (the CLA offer licences for books and journals).

Unfortunately, the EU seems fairly determined to make life even more difficult for those who study music – they plan to nearly double the current 50-year copyright term for music recordings to 95 years, despite the academic report the EU commissioned advising against term extension.

This would be a disastrous move, maiming pioneering research into recorded music taking place at present for 50 years or so while they wait (again) for recordings to fall out of copyright. For example CHARM has been producing an online discography of 78rpm recordings with some accompanying professionally digitised sound files. The term extension would certainly mean taking the sound files offline – could it even require their destruction?

The end result of a term extension would be that those who care about intellectual property will obey the law and useful work and study using recorded music will be halted (who would willingly go through the nightmare of trying to track copyright holders of 90-year-old recordings?), while those who ignore copyright will continue to do so with impunity.

(Thanks to Ag who posted the ars technica link to the IAML mailing list)