Denmark Reverses Position On Copyright Extension, May Impact All Of Europe
from the a-tax-on-the-public dept
Now, the argument most commonly used in favor of retroactive copyright extension is an argument of welfare: that poor starving musicians need this money to survive. Of course, there are two key problems with this. The first is that copyright is not a welfare program. If we want to create a welfare program for musicians, then let the government be upfront and create a specifically funded welfare program for old musicians. But, it would need to defend why it's doing that for old musicians as opposed to old "everyone else."
The bigger problem, however, is that copyright extension almost never actually helps those poor starving old musicians. Anyone who's actually looked into this has seen that the vast majority of that cash goes directly to the major record labels. And if you think they're going to start writing checks to those poor old musicians, you haven't paid much attention to how those record labels handle their accounting.
Either way, this fight comes up every time copyrights are about to expire, and there's been a big push across Europe to extend certain copyrights that are starting to expire. The EU Parliament apparently pushed for extending sound recording rights from 50 years to 70 years, but thanks to significant protests and complaints against this, the EU Commission hadn't moved forward on it. One of the countries holding out was Denmark. However, Slashdot points us to the news that Denmark has had a sudden and unexplained change of heart... and is now happy to support retroactive copyright extension. Not surprisingly, the reasons being given by the Danish culture minister are the classic welfare ones.
"I attach great importance to the musicians have strong rights. In government, we have carefully considered the matter and finds that a term of 70 years would be a sensible approach. Musicians should not experience losing rights to their recordings, while they are still active. We will therefore work towards an extension of protection that will strengthen the musicians and record companies' rights. ""Carefully considered the matter"? Yeah, right. Notice that no actual justification is given for this other than the idea that musicians should never lose their rights. So, does that mean Denmark now supports permanent copyright? Why "70 years"? Where's the evidence that's the proper number? Don't expect answers, you won't find them. Economists who have studied the matter come up with optimal lengths much shorter than even the current 50 years that was perfectly acceptable for those musicians originally.
Of course, with Denmark switching sides, there are concerns that the current folks in power will quickly push through the proposal across Europe, and without any reasoned debate or considerations of the economic and cultural costs of retroactive extension, it will have happened yet again.