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

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  • rate this
    0

    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
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    Comment number 75.

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

  • rate this
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    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
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    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
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    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.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 71.

    It you enjoy listening to the music, dosen't matter how old it is, why would you not want to pay for it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 70.

    There is another, very important side to this issue. Dozens of niche labels produce for the public impeccably researched and superbly packaged low-volume albums by significant, but little-known performers. Faced with the impracticality and expense of establishing inherited and contracted-out rights, to pass on a few pounds, they will just give up. The music scene will suffer immensely.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 69.

    So it's okay for record labels to continue to make money out of out-of-copyright music but it's not okay for musicians to make money from it?

    Also what about films, surely WB and co are still making money from films like "Gone With The Wind".

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 68.

    @64, John wrote:

    "That's not fair. What's so special about performers?"

    --

    Absolutely nothing.

    ... except that consumers WANT to buy their historic wares.

    Unless you want a law that says radio stations can only play music less than 2 years old, and that music retailers can only sell music of similar vintage.

    -

    If the music is generating profit, then the performer(s) deserve a [fair] share.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 67.

    Why is anyone questioning this, it doesn't matter how rich Richard or McCartney are, they recorded music 50 years ago so the idea that they suddenly stop earning money from their craft is rediculous.

    And besides concentrating on the rich and famous is very short sighted, as the article says, what about all those musicians who arn't mega rich the odd royalties cheque must be a god send for them.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 66.

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

    No Aidy - you miss the point. I'm not saying that medical patents are too short. I'm saying that performance (and authors') copyright is far, far too long.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 65.

    BTW what does this have to do with technology?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 64.

    If a recording is made of a live performance, then the person who performed can continue to demand payment for 70 years, even though he did absolutely nothing extra to make the recording.

    But the sound recordist, the mixer and all the other technicians just get their day's wage?

    That's not fair. What's so special about performers?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 63.

    I don't understand why people are making comparisons between music copyright and medical patents? Medical treatments are often a unique or narrow band of active ingredients. To allow long medical patents would be a global disaster for all. No more cheap aspirin or any other generic drug, instead you'd be paying £50 for a hay fever tablet. If you have to make false analogies your point is invalid.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 62.

    "Why shouldn't someone who creates something earn from it? A house doesn't have to be donated to the National Trust after 50 years"

    No - and the builder who put it up doesn't continue to demand payment for having built it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 61.

    If a drug company spend £150m on developing a life-saving drug, they can apply for patent protection - but they have to do it before they even start clinical trials, which could take up to 10 years to complete. So when they finally release the product to market there are just 15 years of patent protection left.

    And the Birdie Song will carry on producing income for its performers for 70 years?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 60.

    Not much benefit for most creators given the common practice in the music industry of supplying music illegally - either because they have no rights in / distribution license for that music or if they do then they've breached the terms through non-payment (often implemented by simply not providing any accounting for sales over periods of years).
    Performance rights are of course a separate issue.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 59.

    #57, Mark

    "So as a teacher who creates lessons, I should be elligible for a share of all my students future earnings."

    ---

    You don't mention the subject, but I suspect little of any lesson is CREATED by you, but merely an exercise in repackaging existing knowledge.

    Indeed, your employers would not be pleased if you WERE creative, because by definition the material would not be examinable...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 58.

    All music that has broadcast in my life time is part of my history and therefore subject to my rules. 70 years is too much 30 years is too much.
    Music is part of life and not subject copyright.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    So as a teacher who creates lessons, I should be elligible for a share of all my students future earnings.

    This is just greed, if you want to keep earning from earlier works, you invest the money simple as that.

 

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