Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 16:59 UK

Musicians in line for cash boost

Cliff Richard and the Shadows
Sir Cliff Richard's early hits have already gone out of copyright

Ageing musicians could receive a financial boost after the European Parliament voted to extend the copyright on sound recordings.

Performers and record labels currently earn royalties for 50 years. That would rise to 70 years under the new plan.

But a proposal to prolong it to 95 years was dismissed as too long.

The plan has to be passed by EU states in the European Council to become law. It would also include extra benefits for performers and session musicians.

If approved, there would be a new fund for session musicians who signed away their rights when a recording was made.

The fund would be financed by record labels, who would put aside 20% of the benefits they get from the prolonged copyright.

There is also a clause to allow performers to renegotiate contracts with record labels after 50 years.

The Beatles
The Beatles' music will start to go out of copyright in 2012

And artists would be able to regain the rights to a recording if the label has kept it in a vault and not made it available to the public.

The Beatles' first release is due to go out of copyright in 2012, with early Rolling Stones hits following in 2013.

Sir Cliff Richard, Roger Daltrey and Sir Paul McCartney are among the artists who have campaigned for a change - alongside thousands of less well-off session musicians.

But record labels reap the majority of royalties and would benefit most from an extension.

The UK music industry welcomed the vote in a joint statement from the BPI, which represents record labels, the Association of Independent Music, the Musicians' Union and PPL, which licenses sound recordings.

It said: "Today's supporting vote in the European Parliament recognises fairness and the benefit copyright term extension will bring to artists, producers, performers and music companies.

"We welcome the vote and urge the EU member states in the council to follow parliament's lead and support the proposal."

A spokesman for the UK government said: "We are pleased to see that the Parliament supports the view that performers should receive protection during their lifetime, and that this is achieved with the 70 year term."

'Wrong solution'

But the Green Party, which put forward further suggestions to benefit performers, said the current proposal did not go far enough.

UK Green MEP Caroline Lucas said: "I am disappointed that MEPs chose to ignore the voices of the artists they claim to be helping.

"It is clear that action is needed to better reward performers for their work, but the legislation approved today is absolutely not the solution.

"The copyright extension to 70 years will fill the pockets of a limited number of powerful corporations and harm performer rights and artistic creativity."

The plan was adopted by 377 votes to 178 in the European Parliament's Strasbourg chamber.

If approved by the European Council, the law would apply to all sound recordings that are currently less than 50 years old, as well as new recordings.

Music copyright is split into two parts - one for the performers who made the sound recording, and the other for the artists who wrote the song.

Copyright for composers and songwriters is a separate law and lasts for 70 years after the death of the writer.

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