EU votes to extend music copyright lifetime

Digital recordings of music from the 1950s may remain in copyright long after the DRM systems protecting them are obsolete.

Despite last-ditch attempts last week by 41 European parliamentarians to block it, the European General Affairs Council on Monday approved plans to extend the copyright protection time for music recordings from 50 years to 70 years.

The new law, dubbed "Cliff's Law" after performer Cliff Richard, will extend the copyright on songs from the 1950s and 1960s until at least 2033. As part of the directive, music labels must also ensure that all recordings are commercially available or allow the artists to release the recordings themselves. Member states will have to incorporate the new rules into their national law within two years.

The music recording community welcomed the news, which comes as the industry faces challenges from online piracy. According the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), 19 of every 20 music tracks downloaded from the Internet are taken illegally. Frances Moore, chief executive of IFPI called the new law a "victory for fairness."

But not everyone is convinced. Some analysts have pointed out that the music industry would be better off focusing on the challenges of legally delivering music to customers online and meeting the challenges of the digital age rather than defending old back catalogs.

Consumer groups were also angry. "E.U. consumers will have to wait 20 years more than previously for recordings to enter the public domain. This decision serves a select few famous older artists and will prompt more and higher license fees for buyers. It further fossilizes European copyright law," said Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumers' Organization, BEUC.

"The extension ignores the needs of creative artists and buyers on the modern online music market. Artists of course need fair protection and remuneration, but lengthening copyright terms simply stunts innovation. This will serve to line the pockets of Europe's major record companies and producers, but not the average performer," she added.

Eight countries including Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden voted against the move and the Austrian and Estonian delegations abstained.

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Tags digital rights managementInternet-based applications and servicesintellectual propertycopyrightlegalMusic and audiointernet

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