EU Looks To Extend Copyright And Blank Media Levies

from the welfare-for-musicians dept

Over in Europe, it appears that the European Union’s internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy has decided that it’s high time Europe turns copyright from an incentive system (as it was designed) into a welfare system for musicians. Despite the fact that the UK wisely rejected copyright extension for performance rights, McCreevy thinks that performance rights EU-wide should be extended from 50 years to 90 years.

It’s important to be entirely clear here: this is a total and complete bastardization of copyright law. Copyright law was intended to grant the creator of content a deal: you create new content and we will give you a limited time monopoly on the rights to that content before passing it on to the public domain, from which everyone can benefit. It was designed as an incentive system, providing a gov’t backed monopoly in exchange for the creation of content. By creating content and accepting that deal, musicians clearly said that it was a reasonable deal. To later go back and change the terms for content already created and extend copyright makes no sense and is violating the contract made with the public. You can’t newly incent someone to create content that they already created 50 years ago. Thus, the only reason to extend copyright is if you believe that it’s really a welfare system for musicians. If that’s the case, then we should be explicit about it, and present it that way, rather than calling it copyright.

That’s not all that McCreevy has up his sleeve either. He’s also apparently a huge fan of copyright levies that add taxes to any blank media for the sake of reimbursing musicians just in case you happen to use that blank media to record unauthorized material. It’s effectively a you must be a criminal tax. So, basically, McCreevy’s plan is to treat all consumers as criminals, forcing them to cough up extra money for musicians, while also setting up a welfare system for musicians hidden in the copyright system. Musicians must love him, but it’s a bit ridiculous for him to claim these proposals make sense because “copyright protection for Europe’s performers represents a moral right to control the use of their work and earn a living from their performances”. Does Mr. McCreevy earn a living from something he did 50 years ago? Does Mr. McCreevy get a cut every time a consumer buys something just in case they commit a crime?

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Comments on “EU Looks To Extend Copyright And Blank Media Levies”

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Shag says:

Media Levies

They actually do work. We have them in Canada on music cds. Not data cds. It actually works, because we tend not to go after the people that download stuff.

they are even proposing a 5 dollar a month tax on the internet connection for the same thing.

Now how much of that cash actually goes to the musicians who knows.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Media Levies

“because we tend not to go after the people that download stuff.”

That is the key. I would pay this tax (even on my Internet connection) if they would let me download anything I want. In the US the tax was set up only for legal copying. So I’m playing for me copying a CD for backup purposes not for sharing.

I don’t know if it would work this way in the EU, but they seem a little more sane over there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Media Levies

This is silly. It doesn’t matter whether the tax is one cent or a hundred dollars, it’s the principle of the thing.

You are being treated as a criminal for absolutely no reason, with no evidence, just because some other people happen to be doing illegal things. It’s akin to being pulled over by the police every time they see you driving a car, just in case it happens to be a stolen car.

They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with crap like this, and I hope Europe shoots this stuff down and laughs at the guy.

Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Media Levies

Well, if they’re not allowed to go after you, it’s not necessarily being treated as a criminal. It could be view as paying for a privilege for private copying (which would still be problematic – should you have to pay for that privilege?).

I have mixed feelings on the levy. Certainly a bandage solution at best though.

(I live in Canada btw)

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Media Levies

“It actually works”

I think that depends on whether you are someone breaking the law and managing to avoid conviction, or whether you are someone who does not yet has to pay a private corporation money because some one else might

Its an incredibly bad precedent to set in my view, perhaps I should pay £5 every time I buy a car to a group of shopkeepers since cars tend to be used as getaway vehicles?

I’m not trying to have a go at you but this law would basically be a corporate tax (from you to the corporations) based on their assumption that you might circumvent their business model. That to me seems very wrong

Bryan says:

Media and Copyright

I support musicians by going to see them live. When I do listen to music, it’s on my ipod, for which there is no ‘you must be a criminal’ tax. The music I do listen to, I’ve bought at some time in the past, and as I’ve lost the original media through the passage of time, I have downloaded high-quality rips. If the music industry had a decent way of ensuring that the content I have purchased can remain available to me ad infinitum, then I’ll stop downloading.

So, copyright law, and covert taxes, don’t bother me in the least.

It’s about time though that we all stopped funding the various recording-industry lobbyists by continuing to buy their content. Once they’re deprived of cash, they’ll stop misbehaving.

Nick (user link) says:

It's stupid to call it a welfare system for musici

…because the musicians never get to see the money. It’s the big greedy labels who swallow the lot.

If you doubt this is true, consider this alternative proposition:
“After the current copyright expires, rights return to the original creators of the work for an extra 40 years.” Does anyone think that the labels, who claim to represent the artists, would support this proposition? Course not…

SteveD says:

Why do Publishing rights last so long?

On the one hand I agree with Mike; the fact that a lot of recording artists live off royalties rather then saving for pensions does not entitle them to free welfare.

On the other hand, why is the length of time for muscians and writers so different? Don’t they all have a hand in the creative process? Maybe not an equal share I grant you, but thats why writers get more of the cut from sales.

MadJo (profile) says:

Didn't we just fight against that?

I remember clearly sending an email on this very subject to the Dutch contingent of European parlement-members. Why the F do these shysters keep putting this on the agenda, while knowing full well that the public doesn’t want it?
Ef that! I’m all for an anarchy right about now.
Democracy has clearly left the building to be replaced by corrupt bureaucracy.

Mr. Sarcastic says:

The public accepts !

Hey, Im a janitor. I want my government to set up a law just like this for all industries. Why are musicians the only people who’s work is worth protecting. I’d like to be paid for the work I do today, for the next 90+ years too, and not just me, Football players, Lawyers, heck the entire population deserves this kind of system. And why not set up taxes for the places I clean so that I can be paid every time someone dirties that which I cleaned ten years ago. Throw away some garbage, pay a hefty tax to my boss, whom Im sure will share with me. Sure we can all enjoy the fruits of our labor for the next NINE decades. Doesnt anybody see how Great this is ? Come on guys Government is fighting for us. We should all be celebrating. My guess is that this will begin with politicians getting paid for the laws they create and within a few short years, even illegal migrant workers will be have their families collecting ‘royalties’ for the fruit their grandfathers picked. oh geee what a great country. There is hope for tomorrow !!

That Guy says:

Yes and No

I’m totally with you Mike on not setting up a welfare system for musicians. I’m not a big fan of socialist programs.

But I do have to disagree on the evils of extending 50 years to 90 years. The main reason is intent. To me the 50 years was established to cover the lifetime of the creator. Well the average lifetime for most people in the modern world has been extended another 10 or 20 years, and content creators are able to produce and distribute prodcts at much younger ages.

So back in the day, you produce a product at 22, and you would be lucky to see 72. But now you can produce a product at 16, lose your rights at 66, and spend the next 20 to 30 years watching people profit off your work.

I would reason that perhaps a better extension might be 80.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Yes and No

The 50 years was never intended to cover the lifetime of the creator. European copyright law is split into copyright (for the author, 70 years post mortem), and neighbouring rights (for the performer/record company, 50 years). The 50 years represents a “reasonable” time to get a proper return on investment. Under European law, the creator receives an entirely different protection than a performer, and as a regular performer of J.S. Bach’s creations I can only agree that such a thing is fair. 90 years for a return on investment is IMHO beyond all reason, and makes no sense from an economical point of view either. Sure, I’d love to be paid for 90 years after doing some work, but that’s no reason to alter the law for that purpose. I guess it’s time to contact my MEPs and national politicians.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Yes and No

But I do have to disagree on the evils of extending 50 years to 90 years. The main reason is intent. To me the 50 years was established to cover the lifetime of the creator.

As others pointed out that wasn’t the intent in the first place.

Well the average lifetime for most people in the modern world has been extended another 10 or 20 years, and content creators are able to produce and distribute prodcts at much younger ages.

Even if that is the case, then extend copyrights for *new* songs, not existing ones. A bargain was made. The public lived up to our end. Why are musicians trying to back out of theirs?

DanC says:

“I’m totally with you Mike on not setting up a welfare system for musicians.”

“But I do have to disagree on the evils of extending 50 years to 90 years. The main reason is intent. To me the 50 years was established to cover the lifetime of the creator.”

Extending the copyright to 90 years only serves to assist in creating the welfare system you say you oppose.

As far as intent goes, the intent of copyright is not to give creators a lifetime monopoly on their work. If the original duration of copyright was intended to last the lifetime of the creator, then that’s how it would have been written. Lifetime ownership of a copyright, at least in the US, was not intended. And based on the fact that the EU specifies a set number of years, I would say that it wasn’t intended in Europe either.

Tom says:

Crime ???

Under the Canadian Copyright Act, it is NOT a crime to download music provided it is stored on a media which has the “tax” applied, you do not sell the download, and do it for your own exclusive use.

Which is better:

A tax system based upon the ratio of data vs music usage, which is collected up front and distributed to the music industry


A police force and legal system which spends massive amounts of time and money in a futile effort to enforce un-enforcable laws.

I am glad to pay the “tax” and (in Canada) I am not a criminal.

By the way in Canada a music group can apply for a refund on the tax which they spent when purchasing blank CDs to distribute (ie sell) their music.

Pieter Hulshoff (profile) says:

Re: Re: Crime ???

Yes, you aren’t a criminal, and neither am I: the difference is that I don’t download music and you do, yet I pay the same tax when I buy CDs for personal backups. How it it fair to tax me like this?

I don’t have any children in school, yet I get taxed to pay for schools anyway. How is this fair? IMHO if such a tax is compensation for legalizing non-commercial copying, which in turn saves a lot of money on the judicial system, then I see no reason why the government should not be allowed to decide accordingly. In the Netherlands, we have a similar levy system, and I highly prefer it over the copyright cases we see in the USA.

Mike says:

Nobody is losing money!

1. Come on, this whole debate is founded on faulty assumptions. The only reason to compensate someone would be if they were actually having something taken from them. Show me _proof_ that the poor musicians and the poor record companies etc. are _not_ gaining from worldwide promotion through filesharing.

2. I only download and share music from artists that have explicitly given me the right to share their work freely with whomever I choose. Music that is free as in freedom. HOW will a tax on my internet connection benefit me in any way?


Philipp Mueller (user link) says:

Author's right

Mike, it actually makes sense (even if I am with you on the policy issue) because in the European legal tradition, we do not have copyright, we have author’s right (“droit d’auteur”, “Urheberrecht”, “auteursrecht” etc.) and that is not incentive based, but stresses the link between the creation and the creator. The difference between author’s right and copyright is that author’s right is inalienable, meaning it can’t be transferred from the author to another party.This does not only matter historically, but also in the contemporary policy debate and structures “creative” practice. One could even argue that a welfare system for author’s is in the scope of the spirit of the law.

The person who has published most on these issues is Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger from the Harvard Kennedy School.


Blaise Alleyne (profile) says:

Don't lump all musicians together

Mike, I’m a big fan of your blog and I agree with a ton of what you’re saying.

But I take issue with the way you’ve seemingly lumped all musicians together in this post and in some of your comments.

e.g. “Musicians must love him”, “A bargain was made. The public lived up to our end. Why are musicians trying to back out of theirs?”

I don’t think this was intended to lump all musicians together, but I think you should be careful because it sounds that way and weakens your argument a bit.

I’m a musician and I don’t agree with McCreevy. There are lots of bands who embrace file sharing and new business models rather than clinging to copyright as welfare. (I know you’re well aware of this.) Lastly, as others have pointed out, most of the time it’s the record companies and publishers pushing these things who aren’t always speaking on behalf of musicians.

Anyways, “some musicians” (the Metallica type) and some large corporations are in favour of these types of laws – not musicians in general.

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