In late January I linked a Cory Doctorow article discussing an EU proposal to extend music copyright from 50 to 95 years. Mr. Doctorow thinks this would be a bad thing, as do I.
Taking a suggestion from that article, I wrote to all nine of my Members of European Parliament (easy to do from WriteToThem) and asked them to oppose this proposal on my behalf. Here’s who my MEPs are:
Here’s what I wrote to them:
Dear Claude Moraes, Charles Tannock, Syed Kamall, Mary Honeyball, Gerard Batten, Jean Lambert, Baroness Sarah Ludford, John Bowis OBE and Robert Evans,
I am a London resident and a lover of culture and music. There’s an important issue under consideration by the EU that I need your help with. There is an event in Brussels *tomorrow* that I would like you to attend if possible.
On 27 January 2009, you have the chance to hear the facts about copyright term-extension for sound recordings in the EU. Under the terms of a proposal from Charlie McCreevy, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market and services, the EU would extend the term of copyright on existing sound recordings from 50 to 95 years.
That’s wrong, and bad for a whole host of reasons. Fifty years is already a very reasonable amount of time for copyright to hold and for music to pass into the public domain. Extending the period to 95 years will hurt music
lovers. Kids won’t be able to use older music for school projects. DJs won’t be able to use music that would normally have been public domain for remixing. Old recordings run the risk of being lost if they’re not digitised. Most artists will get just a tiny bit more money. It will only be the rights-holding record companies that benefit from such an extension.
Those companies are undoubtedly lobbying for the acceptance of this copyright-extension proposal. The event tomorrow in Brussels is to give voice to the majority and dissenting opinion, is one that I share, and one that I ask you all – as my MEPs – to please represent:
“Sound copyright: which way for the EU?”
To assist me you could also sign this petition:
and watch this video:
More info is here:
Thank you very much for your time and help.
So far I’ve received four responses. Here they are, in the order I received them.
Very short, and in agreement with me. Okay, I may not agree with any other policy that the isolationist, Euro-fearing, history-obsessed UKIPers have, but at least they’re representing the view I’m asking them to. Next?
A very long and detailed response from the Conservative, then. And it’s come from the MEPs assistant, not from himself. But he’s against my point of view. He is – surprise, surprise – taking the big-business line about attempting to secure profits for those who are likely to hold the rights to performances: the recording companies. Boo. Next?
Very interesting. Another Conservative MEP, and he seems to have pretty much the exact same lengthy reply that I got from the other Conservative MEP who got back to me, Dr. Tannock. There are two interesting differences, though:
1. Kamall starts off by saying that he personally disagrees with the proposal to extend copyright, but has been told to toe the party line.
2. He inserts the name of Malcolm Harbour MEP, Conservative spokesman on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, as the one who affirms the party opinion on the matter, and prefaces each statement with Harbour’s name. Boo too. Okay, next?
Thank you for writing to me about the Copyright Term Directive. I have not worked directly on this Directive, as I do not sit on the legal affairs committee. However, I have spoken to my Green Group colleagues and our legal affairs advisers.
I am pleased to inform you that we will not be supporting the extension of copyright for performers from 50 years to 95 years. While we are in favour of the principal of providing additional income to older musicians, we do not feel this Directive will accomplish this aim and are concerned about its other possible impacts.
Experts have pointed out that it could reduce access to our cultural heritage. In particular, the replaying and use of the vast broadcast archives in Europe could face new barriers, as the orphan works problem is likely to be exacerbated.
Those supporting the extension have suggested that the proposals will make a positive contribution to cultural diversity by offering incentives to record companies to digitise niche cultural works. However, by the Commission’s own admission, the record companies are likely to concentrate on reissuing high earning material. In fact, studies show that these works are more likely to be preserved once they enter the public domain than by the copyright holders themselves.
If the Commission is serious about addressing the issue of older musicians’ lack of financial security (although why it should single out this particular profession is unclear), it would be more pertinent to examine the situation of contractual terms between performers and producers, or a social insurance scheme, rather than extending the copyright term.
If you would like more information on the Green Group’s position please visit our website at: www.greens-efa.org.
Jean Lambert MEP
Now we’re talking. Lambert gets it. There’s an acknowledgment that no one’s against ensuring performers make money. There’s the realisation that extending copyright for performances probably wouldn’t achieve that, and would probably have undesirable side effects. Well done.