Victory for Cliff's law

Cliff Richard Cliff Richards' career began in 1958 so some of his music is already out of copyright

Remember the attempt to extend copyright for music beyond the current 50 years?

It became known as the Cliff Richard law, because it promised to make sure the veteran rocker would go on earning money from 60s hits like Living Doll for many years to come.  

Now it looks as though Sir Cliff and his fellow musicians could be on the verge of victory.

In Brussels today a key EU committee voted to approve a directive that would extend music copyright from 50 to 70 years.

Now all that's needed is for the Council of Ministers to give it the nod - it's rare for them to say no - and then member states will be obliged to enshrine the extended copyright in law.

I was under the impression that this was a battle that had been lost years ago, with the UK government dead set against extending copyright.

A quick search turned up a couple of stories from 2006 and 2008 that suggested that was indeed the case.

The Department of Business tells me the government changed tack in 2009 when the EU suggested a modification, so that the new extended copyright term would be 70, not 95, years.

When the coalition came to power last year, the new government reaffirmed Britain's support for the musicians.

This evening a spokesman for the Intellectual Property Office told me: "We support this proposal - it should create a fairer system for performers."

Sir Paul McCartney Sir Paul McCartney and Roger Daltrey have also campaigned for copyright extension

What is surprising about this is that ministers have also approved the findings of the Hargreaves Review on copyright.

Its central message was that the copyright regime should be tidied up, and enforced where possible, but that its reach should not be extended.

All those music industry bodies which have campaigned so long for this are keeping their powder dry tonight, waiting for the Council of Ministers to rubber-stamp the decision before they say anything.

A spokesman at one body sounded pained when I referred to the "Cliff Richard law".

"Think of the hard-up session musicians not Cliff Richard," he told me, claiming that thousands of struggling artists would now be guaranteed a pension.

But expect plenty of outrage from opponents who have argued that copyright extension will only benefit hugely wealthy rock dinosaurs.  

There have been plenty of battles in the last few years between the music industry and the web libertarians.

This one looks like ending with a rare victory for the old rockers.

Update 8 September, 0926: Just to clarify, the copyright extension discussed here refers to music recordings not composition. Composers already enjoy copyright that extends for 70 years after their death - so this extension is about performers.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

Who has won the social referendum?

Millions on both sides of the Scottish referendum have taken to tweeting and Facebooking their views on the issues - who has come out on top in the social media battle?

Read full article

More on This Story

More from Rory


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    Aidy, please explain the fallacy. Personally I find it difficult to see why one persons creativity is so much more worthy of protection than anothers. Note that I'm not saying that there shouldn't be any IP protection, just asking you to explain why it is reasonable for the timescales to be so very different for different activities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    @BristolEngineer #74 - comparing apples with bananas is no less fallacious than comparing them with oranges.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    "I don't understand why people are making comparisons between music copyright and medical patents"

    Let's try another way of looking at it then. Why is the creativity of the music stored on a CD worthy of three times longer protection than the creativity embodied in the CD player itself? Why is the music more worthy of protection than the design of the instruments it was played on?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The whole area of performance rights and royalties etc. has led us down some very dark paths. Remember the union agreement that meant recordings of TV shows could only broadcast for two years from production in order to guarantee work for actors and crews? That led to the wiping of vast swathes of early Dr. Who, Z-cars, Dixon of Dock Green etc.
    People get very touchy about their livelihoods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @John #66 - irrelevant. It is like comparing apples and oranges, it is a flawed argument.

    @Les Stow #71 - that's the thing...alas today's generation thinks they should get everything for free, and they pretend to be morally outraged at record companies or whatever to disguise the fact that they want things but just don't want to pay for them.


Comments 5 of 76



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.