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UK copyright extension scam
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 05:21:34 -0400
Begin forwarded message:
From: Kevin Marks <kevinmarks () mac com>
Date: April 21, 2006 4:28:29 AM EDT
To: dave () farber net
Subject: UK copyright extension scam
For IP if you like from my blog http://epeus.blogspot.com
In the UK, the copyright term on sound recordings is set at 50 years.
It's been this way since 1911, but suddenly, with the Gowers Review
coming up, there is an orchestrated attempt to get it extended. The
record labels (who will get a huge windfall if this happens) have dug
up Cliff Richard to plead poverty:
According to the singer, many musicians recording in the 1950s rely
on their copyright payments as a pension.
"It seems terribly wrong that 50 years on they lose everything from
Now, copyright is a tradeoff, whereby a monopoly of limited duration
is granted to the creator to exploit the work, after which it passes
to the public domain. The thrust of the record labels' campaign is
that artists don't make enough money from these recordings to save
for a pension. Letting the labels continue to pay them a tiny
fraction of revenues for another 45 years, when the sunk costs were
accounted for 50 years ago makes no sense at all.
Louis Barfe attacks them on these grounds:
To extend the copyright period in sound recordings would make an
already complacent industry even more unbearably smug, and give a
clear signal that they can get exactly what they want if they whine
loud enough. The losers will be the artists who continue to have
their back catalogue sat on by the fat corporate arse of the record
companies, the small record companies who have made available
numerous archive recordings that have passed into the public domain
(which would almost certainly not be made available any other way),
and, of course, the general record-buying public.
I’m a reasonable man. Here’s a counter proposal: Record companies
can have copyright for as long as they want, as long as they make
their entire archives commercially available in some shape or form
at a reasonable price. Until then, no sale.
However, this concedes too much. The labels are trying to have it
both ways here. In a digital world, the back catalogue can be
released by simply digitising the songs and putting them up for sale
online. The investment needed is tiny, and certainly doesn't justify
conceding any more monopoly rights.
The labels' traditional pitch to musicians is that they have huge
advantages in marketing and publishing through their marketing and
connections, their economies of scale and skilled professionalism,
which justifies them keeping over 90% of revenue.
If this is true, why are they so afraid of competition?
With 50-year-old recordings, the production has been done, and the
distribution costs can be made tiny with online digital sales; even
CD pressing is orders of magnitude cheaper than it was 15 years ago,
let alone 50. If the recordings are set free, others can publish
them, including the original musicians, and keep more of the revenue
for themselves. After all Magnatune pay a 50% royalty on Creative
Commons licensed music.
The question to ask the labels is, if copyright expires on a
recording, will you cease to sell it, or will you just cease to pay
royalties to the musicians?
Looking back 60 years, a big artist then was Vera Lynn - and her
recordings seem to be abundantly available in the UK.
So, are the labels still paying her royalties? Or are they pocketing
the money themselves?
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- UK copyright extension scam David Farber (Apr 21)