Sound recording copyright

One of the big fights was over proposals to extend the copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 years. The idea is comprehensively demolished in Gowers:

4.26 But the fairness argument applies to society as a whole. Copyright can be viewed as a ‘contract’ between rights owners and society for the purpose of incentivising creativity. As MacCauley argued in 1841, “it is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good”.30 If the exclusive right granted by copyright (or indeed any other form of IP right) lasts longer than it needs to, unnecessary costs will be imposed on consumers.

I love the MacCauley quote! This is shortly followed by:

4.40 In conclusion, the Review finds the arguments in favour of term extension unconvincing. The evidence suggests that extending the term of protection for sound recordings or performers’ rights prospectively would not increase the incentives to invest, would not increase the number of works created or made available, and would negatively impact upon consumers and industry. Furthermore, by increasing the period of protection, future creators would have to wait an additional length of time to build upon past works to create new products and those wishing to revive protected but forgotten material would be unable to do so for a longer period of time. The CIPIL report indicates that the overall impact of term extension on welfare would be a net loss in present value terms of 7.8 per cent of current revenue, approximately £155 million.

and then:

Recommendation 3: The European Commission should retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights at 50 years.

of course, it’s up to Europe so the fight is not over, but the evidence collected in Gowers must make it unlikely that the record industry will get its greedy little mitts on this one.

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