Art and Entertainment


Europe to Extend Music Copyright

February 20, 2008 12:23 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The European Commission has proposed to extend performance and sound recording rights. The move would increase the lifetime earnings of artists.

30-Second Summary

The commission’s initiative would extend the copyright period for music performers to 95 years, increasing the lifetime earnings of many European musicians.

Under the current rule, musicians earn royalties from a recording for 50 years from the end of the year of release.

“It is the performer who gives life to the composition,” said Charlie McCreevy, the European Union’s internal market commissioner, in defense of the proposal.

British legislators have repeatedly refused to endorse an extension of sound recording rights. Advocates of the current rule argue that the new law would raise costs and hurt sales. They also say that artists earn enough as it is.

Should the European plan fail, Paul McCartney (65) would cease to earn royalties as a performer on the first Beatles' album, "Please, Please Me," in six years' time.

As a songwriter he would continue to receive a share of earnings, albeit a smaller one. British composers and songwriters retain the copywright on their work for 70 years after their deaths.

The British Phonographic Industry, which represents record companies, has argued that having different standards for writers and performers is unfair.

In the United States, recording rights were extended to 95 years in 1998 after a similar battle.  

One way artists have used their copyright ownership to make instant profits is by converting their work into “Bowie bonds,” bonds that guarantee investors a share of the artist’s future earnings.

British artist David Bowie pioneered the securitization of song royalties in 1997, when he collected $55 million for the first bond. 

Because of falling record sales during the early 2000s, investor interest in Bowie bonds declined. But The Wall Street Journal reported in 2005 that the bonds are making a comeback thanks to a boom in legal digital downloading.

Headline Links: ‘Bands Set for Longer Music Rights’

Background: The copyright battle in Britain

Related Links: The Bowie bonds

Reference: Intellectual property rights


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines