European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services
Extension of term of copyright protection for European performers
Brussels, 14 February 2008
And now, this being Valentine's Day, I would like to turn to a subject that is dear to a great many hearts...the term of copyright protection for European performers.
I intend to bring forward a proposal to extend the term of copyright protection for European performers from 50 to 95 years.
I have not seen or heard 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 many of us have no idea who wrote our favourite song - we can usually name the performer. So I am proposing that performing artists will no longer be the "poor cousins" of the music business.
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 only 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.
I am determined to ensure that this extension will benefit all artists - whether featured artists or session musicians. I will propose a fund for session musicians be set up. This should be a substantial fund - representing at least 20% of the income derived during this new extended term. And for featured artists, any original advances not recouped may not be set off against royalties in the extended term. That means the artist would get all the royalties during the extended term.
I also intend proposing 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 who is ready to release his or her work.
A Commission survey shows that many European performers or singers start their career in their early 20's. Session musicians, who are not a member of a band, often start performing when they are 17. That means that when the current 50 year protection ends, they will be in their 70's. And given life expectancy in the EU - 75 years for men and 81 years for women - it is obvious that 50 years protection is no longer the lifetime plus coverage it once was.
As things stand, once copyright protection for sound recordings has ended, performers no longer receive any income from their work. Neither will they get any payment when their performances are sold on the Internet. For session musicians and lesser known artists that means that their income stops when they are at a very vulnerable financial period of their lives - approaching retirement.
I want to stress that my proposal should not have a negative impact on consumer prices. Empirical studies on the price effects of copyright protection show that the price of sound recordings that are out of copyright is not necessarily lower than that of sound recordings in copyright. In fact, it can sometimes be the reverse.
I have also looked at the trade implications of a longer term of protection and provisionally I can conclude that most of the additional revenue collected in an extended term would stay in Europe and benefit European performers. This is good for promoting Europe's performers and the cultural vibrancy of European sound recordings.