Economics Legal

EU Copyright Following US Tracks

According to ArsTechnica, the European Union is proposing to expand musical copyright terms from its current 50 years by adding 45 years. The argument? “[A]ging performers can’t afford to be cut off from sources of income just when they need them the most.”

The EU recommendation ignores the advice of a University of Amsterdam law professor who heads the Institute for Information Law (IViR). In 2006 and 2007, the IVir produced two reports for the EU that concluded “that a copyright term extension would be a bad idea with costs for consumers, competitors, and society as a whole.” You can read results of the research in this paper: Never Forever: Why Extending The Term Of Protection For Sound Recordings Is A Bad Idea (pdf).

Reportedly, a commission in the UK also determined that this extension would be a “bad idea.”

In July, a number of professors protested the proposed “Term Extension Directive” in a letter published in the Times (London).

Ironically, the United States copyright law grew out of English law, yet it is the United States that has led the move to extend the life of copyright. In 1976, Congress extended copyright to the life of an author plus 50 years, effective 1978, and retroactively extended the 28 year term to 75 years for individuals. Corporate-owned copyrights were set at a 75 years. Part of the argument for the extension was that the rest of the world was doing it … this current controversy suggests that was not the case in Europe.

Then 20 years later, just before Mickey Mouse was about to enter the public domain (2004), Congress was spurred into action again. This time, Congress extended the rights 20 more years for individuals (life + 70) … and modified corporate copyright life to 95 years after publication or 120 years after creation. This law, like the 1976 one, was retroactive. Material created since 1923 that was still copyrighted in 1998 will not enter the public domain before 2019, unless the copyright owner releases it. That’s 11 years. Any bets on another extension?

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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