Big tech accountability? Read the backstory to today's policy debates here on Iptegrity.

Copyright term extension directive sneaked through the Council - 70 years is now law

An 18-month deadlock over music copyright in the EU has been released today. The issue concerns the term of copyright for music and specifically for sound recordings. A directive to extend the term from the current maximum of 50 years has been languishing in the bowels of Justus Lipsius building, as the large Member States with big copyright interests

clashed with many of the smaller ones. Until now, the smaller ones, plus Britain, had been able to block the directive.

However, it seems that the situation has been resolved, as the Council of Ministers has rubber-stamped the copyright term extension directive means that copyright on music in the EU now lasts for 70 years. It is not entirely clear what has happened, but it looks as though Britain and Denmark switched sides. Previously, both countries had opposed the term extension, but they no longer appear on the list of countries which maintain opposition. If this was the case, it would have changed the voting position from a blocking minority against it to a small majority in favour.

The countries who voted against were Belgium, Holland, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden. Austria and Estonia abstained.

The voting positions appear to have been sorted in the back rooms of the Council, because today's vote was an 'A' point, with no discussion. The directive was prepared on 1 September.

The 70-year term was one of the EU's so-called 'compromises'. There were strong positions taken in the European Parliament as well as in the Council, against the Commission's original proposal to extend music copyright to 95 years.

In March 2009, a blocking minority managed to stall the 95-year proposal in the Council of Ministers. The Council's decision was not to the liking of the British music industry, where an un-named executive declared that it was 'un-bloody-believable'. But it seemed that Britain was one of the countries which opposed the extension.

The proposal went immediately back to the European Parliament, where a series of 'compromise' amendments were tabled, including one for the 70 year extension. The MEPs who favoured this 'compromise' were largely the same group who favoured - and indeed promoted - the insertion of copyright enforcement in the Telecoms Package. Significant names were Jacques Toubon, Manolis Mavrommatis, and Manuel Medina Ortega. Other supporters were Christopher Heaton-Harris and Roberta Angellilli. MEPS who opposed it included Christofer Fjellner and Sharon Bowles.

COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION New rules on term of protection of music recordings Press release

Please attribute this article: Monica Horten (2011) EU Council deadlock on music copyright released 12 September 2011 .


Find me on LinkedIn

About Iptegrity is the website of Dr Monica Horten.

I am a tech policy specialist, published author, post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Currently working on UK Online Safety Bill.

Recent media quotes: BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian, Politico.  Panelist: IAPP,  CybersecuritySummit. Parliament and Internet. June 2022-July 2023 w/ Open Rights Group. is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review