Copyright term extension plans on hold. Czech Presidency proposal rejected by Council bureaucrats. British music industry unhappy with UK government. Signs of rift between Ministries.
Proposals to extend the term of copyright protection for performing artists from 50 to 90 years got a serious setback last night in Brussels and they appear to be on hold until after the European elections at least. The British music industry has reacted sharply to the news - an unnamed executive is reported as saying it is "un-bloody- believable"!
It is not entirely clear what has happened, but early reports indicate that a meeting of COREPER - this is the group of civil servants who work for the Council of Ministers - have thrown out a
compromise proposal from the Czech Presidency. The proposal dealt with details such as payment to session musicians. The blocking of the Czech proposal effectively means that it goes back into the melting pot of policy work, and will not be passed into legislation in the short term.
The proposals concern the draft directive for Copyright Term Extension. The key dispute is about whether it should be extended at all from 50 years, and if so, for how long. The Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, and his directorate, were proposing an extension to 90 years, but a compromise of 70 years has also been proposed. Deep within the detail are issue such as how musicians would actually get paid the additional money that they could be entitled to. Opponents argue that most of the money will go to music producers, not musicians. This is primarily an industrial argument, over how the music industry earns revenue for the future.
The British music industry is further reported to be critical of the UK government for failing to support the term extension proposals. It seems that the proposals were blocked by ‘a minority of countries' although the reports do not specify which ones. It also seems that the UK government either sided with the blocking vote, or abstained, which effectively allowed the vote to be carried.
The reports also indicate divisions in the UK government over the issue of music and online copyright. The reports indicate the the Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, is keen on the extension plans, as is David Lammy, the Minister for Intellectual Property. But the business secretary, John Denham, is less keen, and it appears to have been his officials who were involved in the meeting last night. His department, BERR, is demonstrating a more balanced approach on the whole downloading and copyright issue, especially in respect of peer-to-peer file-sharing. The BERR consultation on peer-to-peer highlighted the sharp polarisation of views on the matter, and the difficulty in reaching any kind of compromise between the industries involved. That is the starting position for any policy debate on this issue.
I am wondering if last night's decision is a political signal from the EU, recognising that copyright - especially online copyright - is a complex matter and that now is the time to take this politically difficult and thorny issue and deal with it holistically. Piecemeal legislation - such as the Copyright Term Extension directive - is unhelpful in this environment.
It must be considered in light of other policy initiatives for multi-territory rights and copryight enforcement. The latter encompasses measures such as 3-strikes and content filtering on the Internet. These issues are key ones at stake in the EU Telecoms Package, now going through the European Parliament ( and extensively covered elsewhere on iptegrity.com).
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