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

Nokia's brand name merry-go-round

Nokia launches a new tablet as Microsoft drops the company's name from another. What does this all mean, asks Rory Cellan-Jones?

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 1.

    I'm no expert but expecting a tune from the 60's to provide a pension is short sighted. If you have numerous/smash tunes like Sir Cliff you'll already be fine. If not, a far more sensible route would be to save some of your earnings in the intervening years from the tune (or other work) for your twilight years... like the rest of us non-celebrity mortals...

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Already fifty years is excessive. The stench of greedy music companies fighting to compensate their failure to understand the impact of the web pervades the air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I thought this was resolved long ago.
    Anyway, if Great Britain's answer to Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard has been among the country's most popular singers since the 1950s & even the arrival of the Beatles in the 1960s could not eclipse him, why didn't he sock something away for his older years, like a retirement savings plan?
    (He's a "sir" - Sir Harold Webb (his real name).

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    @5.MIke Batt - I'd love to do a few months work, then live for the next 50-70 years not having to work again because I get a steady stream of income from that few months work.

    It's high time the music (and entertainment as a whole) business joined the real world, where people don't work for a few months a year, then sit back and watch the money roll in for infinity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    @5. MIke Batt
    The point is they should invest the income over the intervening 50 years to provide for their old age like normal people. After all the builder of your house doesn't turn up and demand a fee from you every time you walk in the front door or simply because he wants to retire and hasn't thought finance it...


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.