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)

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2 Responses to “Music recording copyright: EU term extension plans”

  1. Iain Says:

    [This is a standard argument that I am regurgitating.]

    While extended copyright would be bad for researchers, I don’t think this is the main issue. What makes this awful is that it is a retrospective action. Retrospective laws are often unfair on those who have acted reasonably under the existing law, as in your CHARM example. Therefore, any such change requires good justification. The point of copyright is to provide incentive for creativity. Once a work has been produced copyright has done its job. Any extension of copyright should be motivated by a need to better motivate future work and, if this case were to be successfully argued, only future work need receive the extended copyright terms.

    In other words, these quotes in the article are spot on:

    “…the Commission reinforces the suspicion, already widely held by the public at large, that its policies are less the product of a rational decision-making process than of lobbying by stakeholders.”

    “It does nothing for innovation and creativity.”

  2. More on the EU music copyright term extension « Multi-faceted Says:

    […] internet recently about the EU’s plans to extend the term of recorded music copyright, which I mentioned last year. The Open Rights Group has created the following cartoon video to explain what the plans are and […]


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