Ma 02.02.2009 @ 12:41admin

Copyright term extension in Brussels: another chapter in the story

On January 27th, a group of MEP:s organised a hearing on the new copyright directive proposed by the EU Commission, which would extend the protection of sound recordings from the present 50 years to nearly a century. The meeting was chaired by David Hammerstein and Helga Trübel of the Green group and attended by MEP’s from the left to the right. A number  of experts, including Beggy Hogge of the Open Rights Group, Martin Kretschmer of Bournemouth University, and myself, testified that the Directive is not likely to achieve the goals set by the Commission, but will instead make historical recordings less accessible in the future.
I will not repeat the arguments against the extension here – you can read this in my previous blogs, among other places. But it was interesting to note that Guenaelle Collet, the representative of the performers’ organisation AEPO ARTIS spoke strongly in favour of the extension at the meeting. She pointed out that under the present 50 year term the protection of some sound recordings will expire while (some of) the musicians performing on the records are still alive, and they will lose any income which would be coming to them if the recordings are, for instance, played on the radio.
This is a valid point and should be taken into account. Even given the fact that old records are not used that much (in Finland, for instance, only about 1 per cent of all records played on the radio are over 50 years old), some performers would theoretically gain something if the term was extended. While the 95 year term proposed by the Commission seems far too long (a performer who made a recording at the age of 20 would be 116 years old when the extended term expires), some MEP’s have already proposed amendments which would extend protection to cover the lifetime of performers. This is already the case in Greece; although no one seems to know how the Greek law functions in practice (the Commission did not bother to study this).
However, we need to know what performers can actually expect to gain from the extension if it is passed. Can we be sure that they would actually get the money? In many European countries, sound recordings were not yet protected by copyright in the 1960s, or the protection was structured differently than today, as copyright laws have been changed. Does someone really know who plays on the recordings made fifty years ago? If not, what would happen to the money?
One of the speakers at the Brussels meeting was Mike Collins, British veteran record producer and studio musician. He surprised us by telling us that no organisation in the UK has complete lists of the musicians who perform on records. The collecting societies responsible for the distribution of the money only started collecting such data quite recently. Even if a record from the 1960s is played on the radio, the musicians or their heirs have to present proof that they really played on the sessions. Easy thing to do, if you have all your diaries and receipts from 1961 still intact….
According to European Directives, the money collected for the airplay should theoretically be divided 50-50 between record companies and performers, after expenses have been deduced. How this is done in practice is left to the discretion of national collecting societies such as PPL in the UK. As Mike Collins told us, in the UK 16 % of the income is collected on account of American musicians whose records are played on the radio. But since the USA makes no such equitable remuneration payments to performers, American or otherwise, for radio plays or other public performances of sound recordings, PPL generously passes this sum on to record companies. British musicians are now left with about 30 pence of each pound received. At least 65 % of this goes to the featured performer or performers, whose names are on the label. The remaining pennies are split among all the session musicians. If there is a 20-man string section, you can count for yourself how much each man receives.
The same questions can also be made about the session musicians’ fund. The Commission has proposed that record companies would be required to set aside 20 % of the revenue from the sale of records which benefit from the extended term. Money from the fund would be paid to the session musicians who played on the records. Who will receive the money if the names of the musicians are not registered anywhere?
I have been wondering why the EU Commission did not wish to publish in its impact assessment any factual calculations of the extra income which would be coming to individual musicians in various member states during the next ten-year period, if the extension is passed. Now I am beginning to understand this. The figures would not tolerate light.

Pekka Gronow

Pekka Gronow toimi asiantuntijana radion äänitearkistoissa. Hän kirjoitti blogissaan äänitteiden historiaan, arkistointiin ja tekijänoikeuteen liittyvistä asioista.