The argument about whether the mechanical copyright (the copyright covering the actual sound recording) should be extended in the UK was always going to be resolved from a European Perspective, and the EU has now taken the lead and voted on the way forward. The European Parliament has voted on an extension to the current life of the copyright.
However, the EU will still differ from the USA on a number of very important points. The most obvious is that the term is 70 years in the EU and not 95 as in the USA. Additionally, there are greater revenue sharing mechanisms in play revolving around a scheme where Labels pay 20% of the additional income gained (from the extra years) into a benevolent fund designed to support performers and sessions musicians. Similar to the USA there is also a clause which makes it mandatory that after 50 years the acts can renegotiate their record deals.
Although, this is clearly a step in the right direction, and does give more power back to the artists I still can’t see why they couldn’t have let the right to copy be handed over to the market place. There is still an argument that if a label can’t make good money from a copyright over 50 years, then the extra 25 won’t help, and if they DID make good money in the first 50, then why should they make more over another 25? And why 70 years and not 95? Why 70 and not 75, or 70 years after death as with publishing? These seem to be arbitrary numbers based on what people ‘feel’ is right.
Im still a fan for it expiring after 50 years and then the music being sold in a competitive environment. Labels would pay good money to have their copies remastered, perhaps adding extra content so that way their version stood out from the artist’s own version who would be free to sell their copies. I see no downside to this and its more in line with where the industry is heading anyhow which is one defined by open access, low level ‘direct to artist income streams’ with less and less ‘labels’ involvement in the production.
Are artists in the Long tail who produced their own music, did all the performing and singing going to have to pay 20% of any income derived to the benevolent fund after year 50 of the copyright, even if no one else was involved in the production or performances on the recordings? One wonders if this law is a last ditch effort of acts and labels, who are part of the ‘old industry’, to hold back the tide of change?