Aging rock stars and session musicians will keep receiving royalties for their old recordings for the rest of their lives under a European Union plan. Performers currently lose the rights to their recordings after 50 years. Veteran artists like Sir Cliff Richard and Roger Daltrey are among those who have campaigned for it to be extended.
The EU has now announced a scheme for copyright on recordings to last for 95 years. EU governments and the European Parliament still need to give approval. Under the current regime, the first rock 'n' roll recordings will go out of copyright in the coming years. That means performers, producers and record labels would no longer get paid for sales or airplay, and the songs could be released cheaply by any record label.
"A 95-year term would bridge the income gap that performers face when they turn 70, just as their early performances recorded in their 20s would lose protection" said Charlie McCreevy
EC Single Market Commissioner.
Sir Cliff's first hits will go out of copyright on 1 January next year, while The Beatles' catalogue will start to enter the public domain in 2013. Sir Paul McCartney and U2 have also spoken out in favour of extending the copyright. But the EU plan is potentially more important for the thousands of lesser-known band members, session musicians and producers who may be in greater need of an income during their retirement.
The proposals were unveiled by European Commission Single Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy.
"A 95-year term would bridge the income gap that performers face when they turn 70, just as their early performances recorded in their 20s would lose protection," his scheme said.
Former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey, now chief executive of British Music Rights, welcomed the move. He said: "I am especially pleased that the announcement focuses on the 'invisible' members of our industry - the musicians, engineers and session players whose names are hidden away in the liner notes and credits.
"It is they, and not just 'featured' artists and record labels, who could derive real benefits from this move - and at a time in life when their earning power would be severely diminished." The BPI, which respresents British record labels, said the change would "ensure that our performers and labels are no longer treated as the second class citizens in the copyright world".
But the UK government, which rejected its own extension to the copyright term last year, said it was "not convinced" that there was an economic case for the move. When it looked into the matter, the government said most artists would not benefit from an extension because of their record contracts. Most musicians had contracts requiring them to pass royalties back to their record labels, the government said. It also concluded that an extension would lead to increased costs for consumers, who would be forced to pay for royalties for longer.
And Anthony Baldwin, a musician and sound engineer who restores old recordings, told The Times: "If the legislation gets through, you can say goodbye to independent European vintage CD reissues." Separate royalties are paid for songwriting. Those payments will continue for 70 years after the death of the writer.
Source: BBC / Updated: Jul 19, 2008