European Parliament Votes on Copyright Term Extension Tomorrow

Tomorrow, the European Parliament will vote on the issue of copyright term extension for sound recordings, known in Parliamentese as “the Crowley Report (A6-0070/2009) on the Term of protection of copyright and related rights” (Mr Brian Crowley is the rapporteur for this report and a strong supporter of the extension).

Extending term would be a tragic mistake and a blatant example of special-interest lobbying winning out of the interests of society as a whole.

Let us therefore hope that the proposal is rejected.

That’s the line being by some right-thinking MEPs including Eva Lichtenberger, Greens, Sharon Bowles, ALDE, Andrew Duff, ALDE, Zuzana Roithova, EPP, Christofer Fjellner, EPP, Guy Bono, PSE who have put forward a rejection amendment (see their excellent justification below). But they need all the support they can get and remember: it is never too late to act.

Rejection Amendment Justification

The draft Directive is poorly conceived and disproportionate. The Commission claims that the measure is needed in order to benefit poor performers. However, the proposed regulation and procedure is complicated and over-bureaucratic. The biggest beneficiaries will be the four largest record companies. Individual performers will only receive very small amounts each.

Performers could be helped much more effectively by regulating copyright contracts and collecting societies, by setting up appropriate social security and insurance schemes, and by reconsidering remuneration rights and license tariffs.

The draft Directive leaves a large number of questions unanswered. Additional impact assessments are needed to see which measures are best suited to help those performers really in need, to limit the negative impact on consumers and jobs, and to establish if regulation is best done at state or EU level. In these circumstances, it is not wise to proceed to make the long-term permanent changes proposed.

Some of the particular problems are:

The extension of copyright to 95 or even 70 years will increase the revenue of trust funds of deceased performers instead of living performers.

Many performers cannot produce proof for the performances they participated in during the past decades. It then becomes difficult to assess their rights to payments.

The proposed regulation could cause legal uncertainty for all existing audiovisual productions as it will be unclear if the material used is subject to sound copyright.

There is a risk that all material that is not commercially viable will not be marketed by the copyright owners and will become inaccessible for public use.

Small record companies currently publishing copyright-free material risk going bankrupt.

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