The Sound Copyright Blog

A last throw of the dice?

Term extension: it comes, it goes, it comes again

Back in April we asked ORG supporters to write to their MEPs to help prevent a Directive passing that would extend the term of copyright protection in sound recordings (for the reasons why, see our previous post:

We had a fantastic response, with thousands of letters sent to MEPs across Europe. Since then the trail has run a little cold. The European Parliament did not get a new vote. The Directive remained in play, on the verge of being passed.*

Now it seems that the proposal will go before the 'Coreper' meeting on 7th September. The small group of nations that were blocking the proposal have changed their position, so it is likely to be waved through and become EU law. (See Martin Kretschmer's blog for more

This comes only a couple of months after Professor Ian Hargreaves' review 'Digital Opportunity' recommended evidence-based IP policy and picked out 'term extension' as one of the clearest examples of where IP policy has ignored the available economic evidence.

In July, the Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries Ed Vaizey MP told the BPI AGM that the Government will 'continue to support moves in Europe to extend copyright in sound recordings' (See his speech here:

This was only a month or so after the publication of Professor Hargreaves' report. The review highlights that 'the UK Government's own economic impact assessment...estimated that extension would cost the UK economy up to ?100m over the extended term'. The Government recently set out their response to Professor Hargreaves' findings, suggesting that they accepted his recommendations. So it is a peculiar decision to support the Directive's passing.

We have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Business to set out our concerns, and to request that the UK opposes the Directive. We'll keep you posted on developments this week.

* As is often the case with EU policy making, there's a complicated story behind this. The MEP Christian Engström ( tried to get the European Council to give the European Parliament another vote on the Directive. He argued, under a slightly obscure rule of EU procedures, that this was required as a new Parliament was voted in after the original vote in 2009. Whilst he managed to get the requisite number of signatures, he did not manage to secure a new vote. Trying to understand the machinations of the European Union's democratic institutions can be quite a slog. We blogged about this in April here:

Copyright term extension is back - but you can help stop it!

In 2009 we campaigned heavily against the proposed Directive aimed at extending the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. The Directive flew in the face of all the credible evidence.

Despite this the proposal passed the European Parliament on April 23 2009 after heavy lobbying from rights holders - another example of the yawning chasm between evidence and copyright policy. This week, the plans are back in front of the European Council and may soon become law.

That's where you come in. If enough people write to their MEPs and ask them to make sure the Directive gets proper scrutiny by the European Parliament, we might be able to put the brakes on this process. MEP Christian Engström has written a 'request for renewed referral'.

Please write to your MEP now and ask them to sign the request and oppose these damaging, ill-considered plans. (For background about the process behind this, see below).

If you are in the UK please write to your MEP here.

If you are not in the UK, please write to your MEP here.

But isn't making sure artists continue to be paid a good thing?

Yes. But this won't help the majority of artists and comes at the expense of consumers and our cultural realm. The economic evidence is stacked against the proposal. Leading IP professors, the UK government's 'Gowers Review' of IP, and
independent economic analysts have all said that extending the copyright
term is unwise.

The Financial Times labelled the proposal 'disgraceful'
in an editorial in 2009. It will likely result in higher prices for consumers. It will benefit only a small number of artists and businesses - according to a joint academic statement, signed by 80 eminent academics, including several Nobel Laureates, 96% of the economic returns will go to the major record labels and top 20% of performers. Four leading IP professors this week argued that 'If there was a policy designed to suppress social and commercial innovation, retrospective term extension would be your choice.' Large chunks of our cultural history will be locked up.

Looking at the impact on the UK, the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law at the University of Cambridge argued that extending the term of protection will 'likely to have a significant, negative effect, on balance of trade' and that 'it would be particularly inadvisable, given our present state of knowledge, for a rational policy-maker to extend the term of copyright in sound recordings.'

You can read more about the evidence here.

Why will writing to my MEP help?

There's a typically complicated story behind this European decision making process. Since 2009 the Directive has been stuck in the European Council because a number of countries - forming a 'blocking minority' - opposed the plans. One of those Denmark. These last weeks it has emerged that they have switched positions, again after they were lobbied heavily by rights holders, and now support the Directive.

That means that if the Council accept the proposal as it was passed by the European Parliament, there is little that will stop this going through. However, a new Parliament was elected shortly after the Directive passed. Here's how MEP Christian Engström described it:

"Rule 59 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament state that the EP can reopen a dossier that is still in first reading if a new parliament has been elected since the first reading position was adopted. Since a new European Parliament was elected in June 2009, this is the case.

If 40 or more MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) ask for it, the proposal for a renewed referral will be put to the vote in plenary.If we get a majority there, the President (speaker) of the Parliament shall ask the Commission to refer its proposal again to the parliament. This means that the dossier is open again, and we can have a full discussion about the subject matter.This would be the sensible thing to do.

The previous Parliament’s decision to extend the time for the neighbouring rights was ill considered, and has been heavily criticised by legal and economic scholars. There is no reason for the present Parliament to be bound by it."

This is a dreadful idea that will damage our cultural realm for the benefit of a vanishingly small number of people.
So please write to your MEP now and let's try and see this off.

If you are in the UK please write to your MEP here.

If you are not in the UK, please write to your MEP here.

Parliament buckles: copyright extension goes through to Council of Ministers

Against widespread dissent and controversy MEPs in the European Parliament voted this morning to allow copyright term extension to pass a first reading.

4 out of the 7 main groups (ALDE, GREENS/EFA, NGL, IND/ DEM) together with a cross party platform of MEPs voted to reject the proposal. Internal opposition threatened the group positions of the two largest parties (PSE and EPP) as several national delegations and key MEPS also joined the fight to reject. We understand that, in total, 222 voted in favour of rejection, 370 against. The final vote was 317 in favour, 178 against, 37 abstentions. A key amendment to ensure benefits accrued only to performers was also rejected.

The proposal now moves forward to the Council of Ministers where it is currently blocked by member states. The fundamental problems remain: how to include a workable use-it-or-lose it clause; agreeing to deliver real benefits to the vast majority of performers; how to avoid breaking the respect necessary for a functioning IP system by simply taking money from the pockets of consumers.

While the lobbying of powerful vested interests pushed the proposal through, the widespread condemnation in the press, among stakeholders, and in the European Parliament shows that our argument has been won in the eyes of the public and that Europe must create balanced and fair copyright if it wants a system fit for purpose in the 21st century.

We know that many of you wrote to your MEPs in the run up to plenary and for that we thank you. We also remind you that you can have your say on MEPs in the European elections in June and will be releasing a full roll call of the of votes when we obtain it.

Discussions on the proposal will be held in the Council of Ministers and you can find out how to contact your governments relevant IP body here. (We understand the blocking minority is currently made up of Slovenia, Portugal, Austria, Netherlands, Sweden, Slovakia, Denmark, Belgium, Finland, Romania).

We thank you again for your support again and will keep you updated.

Image by Melanie and John under CC

Last day to tell your MEPs: Do not enclose the cultural commons

Wednesday is the last full day to lobby your MEPs in Strasbourg before this Thursday's vote on copyright term extension.

A cross party platform of MEPs have tabled an amendment to reject the proposal to extend the term of sound copyrights beyond 50 years. Contact your MEPs in Strasbourg and ask them to support the rejection amendment tabled by Sharon Bowles, Andrew Duff and Olle Schmidt ALDE, Guy Bono, PSE, Christofer Fjellner, Zuzana Roithova, Anna Ibrisagic EPP.

Find your MEPs here

As the Financial Times said this week: Do not enclose the cultural commons!

say no to copyright extension

Amendment 1
by Sharon Bowles, Andrew Duff and Olle Schmidt ALDE, Guy Bono, PSE, Christofer Fjellner, Zuzana Roithova, Anna Ibrisagic EPP

on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the term of protection of copyright and related rights (COM(2008)0464 – C6-0281/2008 – 2008/0157(COD))

Proposal for a directive – REJECTION

Text proposed by the Commission Amendment

Rejects the Commission Proposal.


The draft Directive is poorly conceived and disproportionate. The Commission claims that the measure is needed in order to benefit poor performers. However, the proposed regulation and procedure is complicated and over-bureaucratic. The biggest beneficiaries will be the four largest record companies. Individual performers will only receive very small amounts each.

Performers could be helped much more effectively by regulating copyright contracts and collecting societies, by setting up appropriate social security and insurance schemes, and by reconsidering remuneration rights and license tariffs.

The draft Directive leaves a large number of questions unanswered. Additional impact assessments are needed to see which measures are best suited to help those performers really in need, to limit the negative impact on consumers and jobs, and to establish if regulation is best done at state or EU level. In these circumstances, it is not wise to proceed to make the long-term permanent changes proposed.

Some of the particular problems are:

The extension of copyright to 95 or even 70 years will increase the revenue of trust funds of deceased performers instead of living performers.

Many performers cannot produce proof for the performances they participated in during the past decades. It then becomes difficult to assess their rights to payments.

The proposed regulation could cause legal uncertainty for all existing audiovisual productions as it will be unclear if the material used is subject to sound copyright.

There is a risk that all material that is not commercially viable will not be marketed by the copyright owners and will become inaccessible for public use.

Small record companies currently publishing copyright-free material risk going bankrupt.

European Parliament votes on copyright extension next Thursday

Intense lobbying pressure has resulted in last minute tabling of the copyright term extension proposal, for a full plenary vote in the European Parliament, in Strasbourg next thursday. However, with the European elections rapidly approaching and the Council of Ministers currently blocking the proposal, its future cannot be guaranteed.

say no to copyright extension

Reanimating a discredited text that doesn't deliver what it purports and misleads politicians and cheats the public sends the wrong signal to European voters. Act now and contact your MEPs and demand they reject the proposal.

MEPs will be in their Brussels offices this Friday and next Monday and in Strasbourg from Tuesday on. Let them know why copyright extension is the wrong move.

Act now for Sound Copyright

Following the surprise postponement of a full plenary vote, next week representatives from the European Parliament, EU Commission and Council will be meeting to try and hammer out some consensus amid the controversy surrounding copyright term extension. From next Monday MEPs will return from Strasbourg to their offices in Brussels, so please tell them why you oppose the term extension proposal.

The priority MEPs for you to contact are Labour (PSE), Conservative (EPP), and Liberals (ALDE) across all Europe. (In the UK the most ardent supporters of extension are Arlene Macarthy (PSE), Malcolm Harbour (EPP) and Bill Newton-Dunne (ALDE)).

We've prepared some super-simple info to help you act now to oppose copyright extension:

You might have followed last week's debate in the Daily Telegraph between Professor Martin Kretschmer and Horace Trubridge of the British Musicians' Union. If you didn't you can catch it here.

Also, this article in response - in support of copyright term extension - is worth commenting on.

Send us your comments to info at soundcopyright dot eu too so we know what you think.

MEPs back off from copyright term extension vote!

say no to copyright extension

Amid intense lobbying in the European Parliament next Monday's vote on the proposal to extend the term of copyright has been struck off in a shock move. Following a meeting of the presidents of the political groups in the European Parliament on Tuesday, and with controversy and a lack of consensus surrounding the proposal, MEPs have delayed voting till the end of April - just before this summer's European elections. A trialogue discussion between the European Commission, Council and Parliament, set for the end of March, will now attempt to broker a deal to see if the directive will be allowed to pass.

MEPs are waking up to the reality that the proposal to extend copyright term doesn't do what it says. It's a terrible and unworkable instrument that will do nothing but bring copyright into disrepute in the eyes of consumers. If you're concerned about the need for a fair and balanced copyright framework you must contact your MEPs now. Make your voice heard!

In other news this week Professor Martin Kretschmer, Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management Bournmemouth, and Horace Trubridge, Assistant General Secretary of the British Musicians' Union, have been debating the copyright term extension proposal. Additionally copyright creators in the Association for Fair Audiovisual Copyright in Europe have launched a petition against the proposal.

But right now the most important thing is to contact your MEPs and tell them why copyright term extension is a bad idea! Use our web banners and spread the word.

Copyright Extension vote on 23rd March: contact your MEPs now!

say no to copyright extension

With the European Parliament set to vote on 23 March on extending the term of copyright for sound recordings, key European experts opposing the extension have released a new letter to MEPs warning of the dangers. Highlighting that the costs to the public are likely to exceed €1 billion the academics warn:

If Europe wishes to keep its ability to innovate, it must not lock in the current industry structure at a moment of great technological change, it must not inhibit digital creators and archives in the exploration of music - music which has been paid for once already, during the existing term!

The public will not be fooled. If copyright law, cynically, departs from its purpose, piracy becomes an easy option.

We urge the European Parliament, and the governments of member states of the European Union, to consider carefully the independent evidence on copyright term extension, and reject the Directive in its proposed form.

Your MEPs need to know that their voters are concerned and paying attention - use our guide to lobbying your MEPs (click to download) and a briefing pack (click to download).

We can't overstate it: get in touch with your MEPs now and use our new banners and buttons to spread the word.

Fight Copyright Extension Now!

Leading Academics Hit Out as UK Government Abandons Evidence-Based Policy on Copyright.

In an open letter sent today to David Lammy, UK Minister for Innovation, some of the UK's most eminent economists and intellectual property scholars, have hit out at UK government proposals to consider changing policy on term extension. The letter, which has also been sent to the UK Cabinet Office, Treasury and Culture Minister, voices serious concern at the lack of evidence justifying a change that seems to show the Government prefers special interests over facts.

An extension of 20 years was the focus of discussion during the UK government's own review, led by the former Financial Times Editor Andrew Gowers, who looked at the evidence and concluded that any extension, whether by 5, 20 or 45 years, was a bad idea for consumers, creators and follow-on innovators.

So we certainly shouldn't be falling for the classic 'ask for double and settle for half' rouse today.

Longer copyright terms would put money into the hands of record companies and dead artists' estates, at the expense of royalties to musicians trying to earn money today. Yet the music companies peddle lies about supporting poor artists.

Update: this video is now available to stream and download in Ogg Vorbis format.

The Open Rights has been telling MEPs in Europe and in the UK that the evidence is against a copyright extension on music. But with a plenary vote set for late march the EU will force-feed it to us anyway unless we let MEPs know. We urge you again - write to your MEPs now!

Sound Copyright conference attacks the "fairy tale" of copyright term extension.

Consumer groups, musicians, academics and industry stakeholders, together with a cross party panel of MEPs, hit out at the "fairy tale" of copyright term extension at the ORG "Sound Copyright" conference in the European Parliament last week.

One by one speakers rubbished the proposal to extend copyright term as outgoing ORG Executive Director Becky Hogge pointed out that “All the evidence shows that the term extension directive will do very little and almost nothing to help the poor performer and everything to line the pockets of the world’s record labels.”

You can see the opening speeches by Becky above and here and by Pekka Gronow (Part 1, Part 2), sound archivist and professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Helsinki. Professor Gronow's account of the conference is also available on his blog. We'll update you with more video and speeches very soon.

Update: this video is now available to stream and download in Ogg Vorbis format.

Next week the Legal Affairs (JURI) committee will likely vote to push the proposal to a full plenary vote in Parliament in March against fierce opposition from the representatives of 42 consumer rights organisations (BEUC), 29 privacy and civil rights organisations (EDRI), over 650,000 library and information professionals worldwide (IFLA), ORG (UK), Consumer Focus (UK) and the EFF (US). With this in mind we urge you to contact your MEPs either in Brussels or at their home constituency and let them know why term extension should be rejected.

MEPs are coming under increasing pressure from industry lobbyists now claiming parity with countries with longer copyright terms as a justification for term extension, despite the European Commission denying that 'comparative advantage' with longer terms was a basis for the extension. (See P. 11, 12.) Show your MEP our cartoon "How copyright extension in sound recordings actually works" and get them to sign our petition and reject copyright extension!

IP watch covered our event, and Cory Doctorow writing in the Guardian echoed the chorus of concern and disapproval already voiced in international press from the International Herald Tribune to the Financial Times.

Our cartoon "How copyright extension in sound recordings actually works" has also been translated into French, Italian and Spanish, with versions appearing on Facebook and Blip TV. Now reaching a total of 30,000 views it hit the top 10 most popular political videos in the week that Obama was elected! Tell your MEPs to reject term extension now!


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