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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Music stars 'must keep copyright'
Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff Richard is a high-profile supporter copyright extension
UK copyright laws should be extended to prevent musicians from missing out on royalties in later life, MPs have said.

Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Cliff Richard are among the artists who will see the current 50-year limit on their early sound recordings expire soon.

The House of Commons culture committee said people had a "moral right" to keep control of their creations while alive.

The copyright term for sound recordings should be extended to at least 70 years, the committee recommended.

That would allow ageing performers to continue to benefit from their early recordings throughout their lifetimes.

Over the next decade, some 7,000 people - including backing singers and musicians - will lose royalties from recordings made in the late 1950s and 1960s, the MPs' report said.

'Weak' protection

The committee contrasted the current 50-year rule for recordings with the position of songwriters, whose families keep the copyright to their compositions for 70 years after they die.

"We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not," the report said.

In the US, performers keep copyright for 95 years after the song has been released, while the level is 70 years in Australia.

"Given the strength and importance of the creative industries in the UK, it seems extraordinary that the protection of intellectual property rights should be weaker here than in many other countries whose creative industries are less successful," the report said.

The creative industries are already of huge importance to our economy and are going to play an even bigger part in the future
John Whittingdale
Committee chairman
"We recommend that the government should press the European Commission to bring forward proposals for an extension of copyright term for sound recordings to at least 70 years."

The report is the result of the committee's 18-month inquiry into the effects of new technology on the creative industries.

It also recommended new measures to help tackle piracy, including heavier penalties and a new law to ban the recording of films with camcorders in cinemas.

The government should also make it legal to copy music for personal use only - such as from a CD to an MP3 player - it said.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said: "The creative industries are already of huge importance to our economy and are going to play an even bigger part in the future."

'Global leader'

New media offered "terrific opportunities", he said, but also presented "challenges to ensure that consumers are protected and that creators continue to receive proper payment for the use of their works".

"By strengthening the protection of intellectual property and the rights of creators, we can ensure that Britain continues to be one of the world's leading centres for the creative industries," he said.

UK music industry trade body the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), which has led the campaign to extend the copyright term, welcomed the report.

BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said: "We urge the government to respond positively to the select committee and now make the case in Europe for fair copyright protection for British performers and record companies."

'Unnecessary'

But several organisations oppose the move.

Jill Johnstone, director of policy at the National Consumer Council, said: "The proposal to extend UK copyright term for sound recordings to 70 years is unnecessary.

"Evidence shows that music companies and artists generally make returns on material in a number of years - not decades. These terms are already too long - and as usual, consumers end up paying the price."

Jupiter Research analyst Mark Mulligan said the music industry campaign was principally intended "to protect the revenues of the record companies that own the rights to the sound recordings".

"Their fear is that unscrupulous record labels will re-release unauthorised copies of other labels' records with impunity," he said.


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