European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy today showed he’s an idiot. He has announced the term of copyright protection for European performers should be increased from 50 to 95 years. How American of him.
According to McCreevy:
“I strongly believe that copyright protection for Europe’s performers represents a moral right to control the use of their work and earn a living from their performances. I have not seen a convincing reason why a composer of music should benefit from a term of copyright which extends to the composer’s life and 70 years beyond, while the performer should only enjoy 50 years, often not even covering his lifetime It is the performer who gives life to the composition and while most of us have no idea who wrote our favourite song â€“ we can usually name the performer.”
Now, I do have a lot of sympathy with the basic argument here. It is unfair that the two terms are not the same. However, the solution would be to REDUCE, yes reduce, composer protection to 50yrs if you are looking for parity. McCreevy’s logic is, because we have no ideas of our own, let’s just follow what the Americans do, and go for 95 years.
If nothing is done, thousands of European performers who recorded in the late fifties and sixties will lose all of their airplay royalties over the next ten years. “I am not talking about featured artists like Cliff Richard or Charles Aznavour. I am talking about the thousands of anonymous session musicians who contributed to sound recordings in the late fifties and sixties. They will no longer get airplay royalties from their recordings. But these royalties are often their sole pension”, says Commissioner Charlie McCreevy in describing the rationale behind his proposal.
How many times do we have to say this – copyright is NOT supposed to function as a pension. Have session musician’s often got royally screwed? Absolutely, but it is not copyright laws role to provide them with a pension. If they live in the UK and paid their taxes, they’ll have the state pension like everyone else. If they wanted more money, they could also have set up a personal pension – just like the rest of us.
To be fair, he is also suggesting a ‘use it or lose it’ provision. That means that, in case a record company is unwilling to re-release a performance during the extended term, the performer can move to another label. However, this proposal is still ill thought out, and a bad idea.