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.