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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 . is the website of Dr Monica Horten,  policy writer and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity is read by lawyers, academics, policy-makers and citizens, and cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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