Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 16:52 UK

Artists battle over music rights

Featured Artists' Coalition committee. Left-right: Ed O'Brien, Dave Rowntree, Kate Nash, Billy Bragg
The Featured Artists' Coalition recently launched to lobby for more rights

A group of high-profile rock and pop artists has entered into a battle with the music industry over a proposal to change music copyright.

The Featured Artists' Coalition, a new pressure group including members of Blur and Radiohead, said the plan would not be good for performers or fans.

The copyright on sound recordings currently lasts for 50 years in the UK.

Record labels, backed by stars like Sir Cliff Richard and Roger Daltrey, want it to be extended to 95 years.

That means the owners of the rights to a sound recording would keep receiving royalties for 95 years after it was made.

The Featured Artists' Coalition (FAC) said record companies would benefit more than performers, as they would retain the rights to most songs.

We believe that all rights in recordings should revert to the artist after 50 years
Featured Artists' Coalition

"Record companies would simply gain another 45 years of ownership, entrenching the terms of record contracts signed in an analogue age," an FAC statement said.

The FAC said it supported copyright extension, but in a way that favoured artists.

"We believe that all rights in recordings should revert to the artist after 50 years," the statement said.

"While the record companies would lose nothing, as they only expected to own the copyright for the current 50 year term, both artists and consumers stand to gain from this proposal."

Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien, Blur Drummer Dave Rowntree and pop singer Kate Nash are on the board of the FAC, which claims the support of 1,000 artists.

Their action comes after the European Commission put forward a proposal to set sound copyright at 95 years across the EU, the same as the US.

The British music sector is very disappointed that our own government, despite its recent positive statements, did not vote in favour of the proposal
Statement from UK music industry bodies

The latest proposal was blocked in a vote in Brussels on Friday.

The UK Government, which wants the duration to be set at 70 years, did not support the plan because it said it wanted more "real, lasting benefits" for performers.

Billy Bragg, another FAC board member, praised the government's stance.

He said: "Make no mistake, what happened on Friday in Brussels was good for artists and good for consumers because it opens the door to a deal on extensions that will ultimately benefit both," he said.

But a coalition of industry bodies reacted with anger, saying the blocked proposal would "deliver real benefits to musicians in an extended term".

"In continuing to hold out for further changes, the government has not heeded the repeated pleas of the very musicians it claims to support," according to a joint statement from the BPI, which represents record labels, the Association of Independent Music, Musicians' Union and PPL, which licenses sound recordings.

If a record company invests hundreds of thousands of pounds in selling my records, doesn't it earn a right to stand alongside me in the sharing of income?
Mike Batt
Songwriter and Dramatico Record owner

Mike Batt, songwriter and owner of the Dramatico record label, which has signed Katie Melua and Marianne Faithfull, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he supported the industry stance.

"I run a small record label and I'm an artist, so I can speak for both," he said. "If a record company invests hundreds of thousands of pounds in selling my records, doesn't it earn a right to stand alongside me in the sharing of income?"

Bragg responded that Batt's argument "defending the right of record companies to enjoy a further 45 years of income made my blood boil".

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