Copyright protection extended from 50 to 70 years by new EU Directive

On 12 September 2011 the EU Council adopted a Directive which modifies Directive 2006/116/EC ‘on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights’ and extends copyright protection for performers and phonogram producers on music recordings from 50 to 70 years.

This new Directive, dubbed ‘Cliff’s Law’ (after Sir Cliff Richard, who has been a long-standing campaigner for copyright extension), is intended to recognise the creative and artistic contribution of performing artists, session musicians and record producers, and bring the duration of copyright protection closer into line with that afforded to composers.

In the new Directive, it is acknowledged that performers “generally start their careers young and the current term of protection of 50 years applicable to fixations of performances often does not protect their performances for their entire lifetime… therefore, some performers face an income gap at the end of their lifetimes”. It is also conceded that current copyright protection often does not enable performers to “prevent or restrict objectionable uses of their performances that may occur during their lifetimes”.

The new Directive also contains supporting provisions which mean that ‘use it or lose it’ clauses will now have to be included in contracts committing performers to their record labels. As a result, performers will be able to recover their rights in their performances if the record label does not market the sound recordings during the extended period. Performers will thereafter be able to either contract with another record label or market their music themselves; the latter option becoming increasingly viable due to the internet. Finally, record labels will also be obliged to set up a fund into which they will have to pay 20% of their revenues earned during the extended period. The money from this fund will be used to help session musicians.

U2 manager Paul McGuinness commented that the new Directive is “a great step forward for artists…. The EU’s decision recognises the role performers play in bringing a song to life and rightly narrows the gap between the protection offered to them and songwriters”.

The new Directive must be incorporated into national law within two years by all 27 EU countries.

Please contact us for more information on music copyright protection.

Peter Bott
Trainee Solicitor

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