At a Brussels press conference, Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said he will propose an increase to 95 years to stop European performers from being the “poor cousins of the music business. Other proposals include a fund for session musicians consisting of 20 percent of revenue derived from the extended term, and allowing features artists to retain all royalties accruing during the period.
McCreevy also wants performers to have the right to move to new labels if theirs refuse to release tracks during the extended term.
Copyright protection for European performers “represents a moral right to control the use of their work and earn a living for their performances,” McCreevy said. He said he has seen “no convincing reason” why composers should be entitled to protection for life plus 70 years, but performers for only 50 years. Performers “give life to the music” but often cannot expect any income when they reach their vulnerable later years because copyright protection has expired, he said. The longer term will not affect consumer prices or Europe’s external trade balance, he added.
McCreevy’s move was welcomed by the International Federation for Phonographic Industry, which has been pushing for a longer term of protection for performers. The UK-based Open Rights Group, however, said McCreevy is ignoring evidence in favour of “emotive arguments.”
The case against copyright term extension was clearly made in the UK and in a study commissioned by the Internal Market Directorate-General, said the group’s executive director, Becky Hogge. Longer copyright terms risk “consigning vast swathes of cultural heritage to a commercial vacuum in favour of the very small percentage of tracks still making their creators money 5 years after they were laid down,” she said.
McCreevy relaunched consultation on copyright levies, saying he wants to focus on the relationship of levies to the harm suffered by rights holders. The often acrimonious debate stalled last year because there appeared to be no clear way forward, the commissioner said.
Now, McCreevy said he does not intend to question the right of a copyright owner to receive compensation for private copying, but to try to resolve the incoherence in the amount and application of levies across the EU. He said he has no preconceptions about how the debate will turn out.
Responses to a new questionnaire are due on 18 April, with a public meeting to follow in June to see if there is any agreement among interested parties.
Blank media distributors are pleased the Commission is stepping in to “put a little more order” in a levy system which varies as much as one to six times from one product and country to another, said attorney Cyril Chabert, of Chain Association d’Avocats in Paris, who is challenging French levies on technologies for transferring data such as USB keys, external hard disks and memory cards (IPW, European Policy, 16 November 2007).
Sweden in the most innovative country based in part on its use of IP, the Commission said Thursday in a 2007 Innovation Scorecard commissioned by the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry.
The analysis is based on 25 indicators covering five dimensions: intellectual property know-how, structural conditions driving innovation, investment in knowledge creation through research and development activities, the level of innovation at the firm level, and labour and business activity performance levels.
Over a five-year period, four main country groupings emerged, the Commission said.
Sweden, Finland, Germany, and the UK are among the world’s “innovation leaders,” which also include the US, Japan, Switzerland, Denmark and Israel. “Innovation followers” include Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland, Austria, France, BelgiumCanada. Estonia, Australia, Slovenia, Norway, Czech Republic, Italy, Cyprus and Spain are “moderate innovators,” the study found, while Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, Greece, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Latvia and Romania are “catching-up countries.”