UK Government May Extend Copyright, Despite Saying It Wouldn't

from the well,-how-about-that dept

Back in 2006, you may recall that the UK released the so-called Gowers’ Report, which was a look into various issues having to do with copyright law in the UK. I pointed out, at the time, that the report was too balanced for its own good, focusing on how to “balance” one side’s views against the other’s — without recognizing there could be paths that made everyone better off. The one thing it got sort of right, was in making it quite clear that extending the length of copyright was a bad, bad idea and totally unnecessary. In fact, Gowers later admitted that he toned down the report, since the actual evidence he found suggested that things would be better if copyright length were shortened — but he knew suggesting that would lead to screams of outrage from the industry.

At first, it appeared the government was going to accept this reasoning, and rejected the idea of extending copyright on performances. However, these sorts of things are never over when it comes the recording industry’s lobbying efforts — and some believe that they’ve convinced the government to change its mind and revisit copyright extension. How? By playing the sympathy card, focusing on the fact that “performers who were reaching retirement were being deprived of revenue from popular recordings, just when they need the money the most.”

This is the “welfare” argument. It’s the argument that copyright is some sort of welfare system designed to keep paying musicians for a single performance they did 50 plus years ago. Unfortunately, that’s not what copyright is for. It is merely an incentive for the creation of content. If that copyright was enough to get the musicians to perform 50 years ago, then it served its purpose. Extending the copyright after the fact makes absolutely no sense. The fact that some musicians won’t still be getting royalties from these performances seems meaningless. They knew the terms of the deal when they did it: they got royalties for 50 years. They had 50 years to save money and do other work to build a nest egg — just like every other worker in the world. What they’re basically asking for is the equivalent of any normal worker going back to his employer from 50 years ago and demanding an additional salary for that work. There is simply no reason to support such efforts.

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Comments on “UK Government May Extend Copyright, Despite Saying It Wouldn't”

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Tim says:

So if musicians/songwriters, and actors & writers, can get paid for 50 year old works, how long will it be before the poor athletes get a cut from the sports highlights that include their work (which they’ve already been paid for) from fifty years earlier? Maybe Holyfield and the likes ought to look into that to help pay the mortgage.

jsnbase says:

Remember, that’s just the argument they’re using. It isn’t actually the reason they want to extend copyrights. If you focus on fighting the red herring argument, we’re going to lose this fight – just like we’ve lost every recent copyright battle in the US.

You’re all super-duper-clever, but cocaine jokes aimed at imaginary proto-celebrities are missing the point.

Matt (user link) says:

Musicians and the deception of royalties

It takes most artists that long to pay back the ‘advance’ they got to record their album in the first place. My understanding is that the royalties go to the owners of the recording which in the majority of cases is the record company… so the artists themselves actually see no money from this deal anyway. As for copyright of the song… isn’t that with the composer until 50 years after they die? in that case… what does the composer care.

The royalties that are discussed here I think are in the actual performance of the song only -this product is mostly owned by the record labels that ‘hired’ the bands in the first place.

halycon says:

Second verse, same as the first

I’ve about hit the point to where I think it truly doesn’t matter what reason or logic say. We’re going to lose anyway. We just can’t win against; “Save the Children”, “Save the Artist”, “Save the Planet”, and of course… “Save the Stupid”. In a world where no one talks about issues anymore, but instead talk up the emotional impact of an issue.. anyone who’s actually worried about something is well and truly screwed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Second verse, same as the first

It is a sad, sad day when Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park 2” is possibly exactly right and holds the key to the impending doom of humanity.

For those who haven’t read it, essentially it suggests that behavior wiped out the dinosaurs rather than an exterior event. Extinction happens periodically on a large scale and no one really knows why.

Towards the end of the book it suggests that the behavior of humans may lead to its eventual downfall and extinction. Halycon’s comment on how people talk up the ’emotional impact’ rather than the details and facts of an issue could very well be the first step towards our doom.

max says:

I wonder then Matt, if they don’t make money, how do they live for those 50 plus years? Seems like a good deal to me, they should save up what they can just like everyone else.

Well said Halycon.

And you^ I get rather tired of the “they’re rich they can pay” agrument, while I agree, they are likely bastards. Now greed is entirely different.

So, perhaps we can say greedy bastards.


John (profile) says:


So who are these artists who are “reaching retirement”? And do they really need the income that would come from extending copyrights?
Or are we really talking about the *copyright holders* who will keep getting an income… who are very probably *not* the artist who would need the “retirement income”.

And from what I’ve been reading about the music business, it doesn’t seem to be the same as a 9-5 job where people retire after working 35 years at one place.

And what exactly is “retirement” for artists anyway? Does it mean that they don’t make any more records? Do they come “out of retirement” when a “greatest hits” CD is released?

But, like the article says, copyright is not a retirement plan.

chris (profile) says:

Re: Retirement

it doesn’t seem to be the same as a 9-5 job where people retire after working 35 years at one place.

dude, where do you work?

in america you work somewhere until you get one too many cost of living raises. then your position gets eliminated and your ass is out on the street and your job goes to india or someone willing to do it for half of what you made.

as for “9 to 5”, what the hell is that?

A Music Industry Guy says:

Copyright is just half of it...

The main thing people are missing here is that Copyright alone does not ensure royalties.

For one, copyright only protects half of the IP it’s applied to. The other half goes to publishing rights (which are a section of copyright).

Anyone who wrote the music gets an automatic share of the copyright. That just ensures that they are entitled to their percent of 50%. After that the publishing rights are divvied up among the various parties. Sometimes the artist gets a share of this, but if they’re on a big label, they’ll most likely only see 1% if anything at all from that. That 1% (if anything) is then used to pay royalties to the artists involved in the song (let’s say one guy wrote the song, well the rest of the may band still gets credit and royalties through the publishing rights).

Extending copyright means that these songs could be viewed as less valuable. If all an artist has to do is score a single hit that rakes in 1 million dollars, they are earning, at minimum, $500,000 for a single song. That means that the value of music is cheapened with each one of these hits.

Just look at the “single crisis” in the North American market. You have many one hit wonders scoring big and then leeching off of those earnings. This means the market is flooded with a ton of one off’s and has very little place in the mainstream for more elaborate, better music.

Then again this is all just my opinion… Extending copyright only cheapens the industry.

Tee says:

from an actual songwriter

I think 50 years is fair. No longer. Unless you get a hit when you’re 10 years old, a fifty year span of time is sufficient. As long as the songwriter is alive, he or she should receive whatever income that compensation generates. And that span of time generally covers that.

However, when Mike (and others) say things like, “…just like every other worker in the world.” it really turns me off to the whole argument. I’ll be honest; songwriters are not like every other worker in the world. That whole argument sounds like a child who can’t understand why he has to study harder than “Little Jimmy” down the street to achieve the same good grades.

Little Jimmy is smarter and grasps things quicker than the other children. Its just how he was born. He hit the “genetic lottery” when it comes to brains. Because of this (if he takes advantage of his “gifts”), he will get good grades in school, admittance to top colleges, and end up with a high paying job and great retirement benefits. Even after retirement he’ll get rewards from the work that was done when he was younger in the form of a pension or stock options he received from his employer(mind you, he got those stock options in a way not available to the general public). Is it fair that he makes more money over his lifetime than “… every other worker in the world…” just because he was born smart?

It’s the same with songwriters(and other people who have rare gifts or talents). We were born with the ability to do something not everyone can succeed at. We were lucky enough to hit the “musical genetic lottery.”

Look, you guys have some valid points regarding the abuse of copy write law. But, when you start that whole, “They should get paid what(like) I do …” argument, you loose credibility. Not only do you sound like a socialists (everyone should recieve the same compensation regardless of profession), you sound like jealous kids. Understand, I’m not calling you that, I’m just pointing out how you come across. If you want to start wining more copy write reform arguments, and therefore influencing the laws that come from that understanding, you’ll try and find different ways of approaching your goals.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: from an actual songwriter

It’s the same with songwriters(and other people who have rare gifts or talents). We were born with the ability to do something not everyone can succeed at. We were lucky enough to hit the “musical genetic lottery.”

That’s fine. But if they were born so lucky, why do they need a special gov’t granted monopoly?

That’s my problem.

Look, you guys have some valid points regarding the abuse of copy write law. But, when you start that whole, “They should get paid what(like) I do …” argument, you loose credibility. Not only do you sound like a socialists (everyone should recieve the same compensation regardless of profession), you sound like jealous kids.

Yikes. But I’m NOT saying that they should get paid “like everyone else does.” I’m saying that they shouldn’t get paid thanks to a special gov’t monopoly.

What I’m saying is a lot less socialist than having the gov’t grant you a special monopoly.

Your point about the “genetic lottery winner” doesn’t make sense. In that case, the “genetic lottery winner” is ahead of the game and doesn’t need extra assistance from the gov’t. Why does the songwriting “genetic lottery winner” deserve that assistance?

Whyte Koroms says:

No end in sight for draconian copyright laws!!!!

I don’t see any reason why Gomer’s was hesitant to mentioned on his report the economic evidence for shortening the length of copyright terms.No matter the argument put forward, 50 years is simply ludicrous!! The issue of copyright will always be a very thorny and divisive issue.Just look at the conclicting views of two industry heavy weight, then you will know how far we are from resolving this issue: and F_src=flftwo

Tony Watts says:

Copyright Extension

Great isn’t it? Extend the record copyright term and as most of the session musicians we keep hearing about won’t benefit as they received a flat fee and not royalties. The rights will become the property of the major record companies almost in perpetuity and as they are not interested in re-issuing ninety-nine per cent of their back catalogues many recordings will simply disappear. Without the competition of independent companies CD prices are certain to go up (the majors have only lowered prices on re-issues in response to independents releasing the material)and many hundreds of people working for the independent labels specialising in public domain recordings loose their jobs. Well done everyone! EMI, Universal and Sony/BMG couldn’t have done better if they had been allowed to change the law themselves.

plastic injection molding (user link) says:

great topic!

Having alighted in a fantastically picturesque city where the streets were spotless, the residents spoke our language and we could indulge in the creature comfort we’d abandoned nine months ago (we now consider drinking water from the tap to be a rare treat), it was tough to fight the urge to plop down and spend the remaining months of our journey living the sweet scaffolding life in Auckland.

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