EU Again Thinks About Extending Copyright, Despite Earlier Rejection

from the copyright-as-welfare dept

Copyright was never designed to be a welfare system -- yet increasingly we're hearing from people who seem to think it is one. A couple years ago, the UK commissioned a detailed report on the question of copyright extension, known as the Gowers Report -- which clearly recommended against extending copyright on performance rights. In fact, Gowers later admitted that all the evidence suggested that copyright length should be shortened, rather than lengthened. And, for at least a little while, the government agreed.

However, back in February, we noted that the EU's "internal market commissioner," Charlie McCreevy was pushing to expand copyright, making bizarre claims suggesting that he really does think of copyright as a welfare system. And now, unfortunately, TorrentFreak lets us know that McCreevy may get his wish. His proposal may be up for a vote this week, extending the copyright on certain performances from 50 years to 95 years.

This is, of course, a complete bastardization of copyright. Copyright was a bargain between the public and content creators: if we grant you a monopoly on this content for a certain number of years, you'll create that content. There is no excuse to go back at a later date and change the terms of the deal. Clearly, it was enough to get the content created at the time. The musicians accepted the deal. To go back later and extend it for another 45 years is simply taking that content out of the hands of the public who made the deal on the other side.

What becomes clear, though, is that McCreevy doesn't even recognize the public's role in this, other than to pay up the "pensions" of musicians, even beyond what was promised:
"I am not talking about featured artists like Cliff Richard or Charles Aznavour. I am talking about the thousands of anonymous session musicians who contributed to sound recordings in the late fifties and sixties. They will no longer get airplay royalties from their recordings. But these royalties are often their sole pension."
The choices of names in this quote aren't an accident. Cliff Richard was the musician who most fought for the extension (suggesting that it is, indeed, about artists like Cliff Richard). In fact, some criticized Richard for speaking up about this, because it drew too much attention to musicians who had made plenty of money. So it's pretty bizarre for McCreevy to pretend that this isn't about Richard. But, much worse, is pretending that this is about these musicians' "pensions." That's not at all the purpose of copyright -- and turning it into one is simply illegally shafting the public by changing the terms of the deal it crafted with the musicians.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    José Luis, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 3:08pm

    Backfire...

    I have the strong feeling that on the long term, all these extensions will backfire to the owners of the copyright, making their content much more expensive and impossible to monetize.

    If, at the same time, unknown/less-known/well-known artists start using other methods (like Creative Commons), new+good+free will defeat old+good+expensive.

    They will end up without their "pensions" anyway.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Kiba, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 4:02pm

      Re: Backfire...

      Yeah. We should let them implement their MAD UIP(Mutually Assured Destruction through universal intellectual property) policies.

      Then we laugh our ass off through creative commons and other methods.

      Beside if there are witch hunt of politicians for illegal file sharing, maybe it will force politicians to think twice.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Franssu, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 3:11pm

    The public ?

    The public, in this case, is represented by McCreevy, as is the only guy in the EU establishment thinking about all this stuff... Sure he's not elected, and sure he's also representing the majors and the artists as well.

    But anyway, what's good for them is good for us, no ? At least that's what he says. So I have to believe him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 3:13pm

    How many of us have pensions?

    How many of us non-musicians have pensions? Fuck the musicians -- they're no more deserving of pensions than politicians. (Why does anyone DESERVE a pension?) And it ain't gonna be my dime paying the pensions of those poor, starving artists . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 3:20pm

    Sonny Bono in the EU

    Good for the EU...showing some forward thinking for a change.

    Of course, if anyone disagrees they should contact Lessig and have him argue against the extension.

    Oh, wait...he lost this argument a few years back in the Supreme Court.

    My bad....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Kiba, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 3:50pm

    Only one problem....European nations didn't implement copyright as a bargain between members of society but rather recognize it as a "natural right". This is quite different from the rationale and reason the US constitution gave us for copyright law.

    So we're looking at this situation with an American perspective, not a European one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Allen (profile), Jul 15th, 2008 @ 8:09pm

    Wrong argument

    If the only argument against copyright extension is over royalty funded retirement then I'd say go for it!

    If you stop the royalties then the musicians would just go onto the government funded pension. Royalty free access to old music that I rarely listen v's tax payer funded pensions? Not that I live in Europe, but if I did I'd rather pay the royalties occasionally, rather then pay the taxes funding the pensions always.

    This is the wrong argument for/against copyright extension. A masterful distraction from other arguments, but still the wrong argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike (profile), Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:08am

      Re: Wrong argument

      If you stop the royalties then the musicians would just go onto the government funded pension. Royalty free access to old music that I rarely listen v's tax payer funded pensions? Not that I live in Europe, but if I did I'd rather pay the royalties occasionally, rather then pay the taxes funding the pensions always.

      You suggest those are the only two options. What about the musicians actually I dunno, saving for the future?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Jul 16th, 2008 @ 12:17am

      Re: Wrong argument

      No, it's the right argument. To put it another way: the only real argument people seem to have *for* the copyright extension is to give artists pensions. there are many objections to this, including:

      * Why do artists get to retire on a piece of work they did 50 years ago while peers in other industries do not?

      * Who decides who gets the money - for example, does the original artist get it, or does the current copyright holder? If the latter, does the artist get anything?

      * What about "orphan works", i.e. those works where nobody exactly knows who owns the copyrights? Especially in those cases where this lack of knowledge is preventing works from being released?

      There are many other objections, but that's it. I have no sympathy for an artist who has been living off a single piece of work for 50 years, and now needs an extension for retirement. Wasted the last 50 years of royalties instead of saving for retirement? Tough, go onto the state pension like everyone else in your position.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Allen (profile), Jul 16th, 2008 @ 7:30pm

        Re: Re: Wrong argument

        Paul,
        we may be in violent agreement. You come up with two important points that have nothing to do with pensions: Orphan works and the fact that some recording company is more likely to be the one cashing in.


        The debate needs to be about these points (and others), and not about the clever distraction that "it's their pension" represents.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rose M. Welch, Jul 15th, 2008 @ 9:48pm

    So patent trolls are saying...

    *whine* *whine* *whine* didn't put away for retirement *whine* *whine* *whine*

    Instead of:

    Yes, and when my contract is up, I will stop being paid, even though my advances will still be used. Because my contract is up. The contract that I agreed to. The contract between myself and the public.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tse, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 4:06am

    Payments for session musicians?

    quote:
    "I am talking about the thousands of anonymous session musicians who contributed to sound recordings in the late fifties and sixties. They will no longer get airplay royalties from their recordings"

    This is insane. Session musicians get paid for their work immediately, per hour or per project basis. They don't own
    copyrights (in many cases even the famous artists don't, the record company does) and therefore don't get paid any airplay royalties.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Jul 16th, 2008 @ 6:28am

    Boo-hoo

    "But these royalties are often their sole pension."

    Boo-hoo for them. Maybe they should have spent the last forty-five years working and saving for retirement like the rest of us. If "session musician" is relying on the paltry royalties of forty-five-year-old music as his only income for retirement, that's his irresponsibility. Changing the law to support lazy people who contribute nothing to the economy is not going to help anyone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This