New survey says public ‘support’ extending the copyright term in sound recordings

December 2006

Record labels

Research commissioned by the BPI seems to show majority support among British consumers for an extension in the recording copyright in Britain – although answers given always depend on the question asked! The BPI is currently lobbying the UK government to extend the term of UK sound recording copyright from the current 50 years to match the equivalent copyright in the US which runs for 95 years. In a survey undertaken by YouGov on behalf of the BPI, 62% of those surveyed agreed that UK recording copyrights should be brought inline with the US. Only 20% opposed the proposal, with 18% undecided. The BPI argue that a copyright extension is vital to support the unique cultural asset of the UK music industry, to drive re-investment in the creative economy, to end the discrimination of protection afforded to other cultural industries, to benefit consumers through increased availability of music at no extra cost and to boost UK’s international competitiveness in the global knowledge economy. Commenting on the YouGov poll, BPI chief Peter Jamieson told reporters this weekend: “We are hugely encouraged that the majority of British consumers agree with us that UK musicians should receive as much copyright protection as their US counterparts. Our unique and internationally renowned industry would use a term extension to continue to invest heavily in the creative economy for future generations and consolidate the rights and works of our cultural ambassadors”.

See the ARTICLE: ‘Extending the Term’ – Should the UK recording industry have new obligations as well as new rights if the copyright term for sound recordings is extended?
by Ben Challis – on this website for comment on this area

And see ARTICLE LINK: Extend the term in sound recording copyrights? This writer certainly doesn’t think so: ‘Breaking the Deal’ by Professor James Boyle.

This is a clever and well written argument which sets out why this is an unacceptable move.

and also see

COMMENT by Ben Challis: I have to say that I find the BPI’s campaign to ‘extend the term’ for copyrights in sound recordings beyond the current fifty years somewhat of a little bizarre – is it really their biggest worry? The ‘record industry’ has an amazing ability to shoot itself in the foot although the campaign brings up one important issue straight away – that the BPI are NOT the ‘voice of the music industry’ even if some in government and the press think they are. Increasingly the BPI are worryingly out of step with the independent labels, with the music publishing industry, with the voices of musicians, artist managers and songwriters and with the live industry. And lets be frank, they also haven’t done much to endear themselves to consumers (although the BPI have never reached the elevated status of the Recording Industry Association of America when it comes to bile and mockery). The whole argument about ‘extending the term’ is like watching an irate self righteous customer on the bridge of the Titanic complaining about a broken toilet. It’s not really the most important issue! The copyright industries are going through a period of profound and radical change and expending this much time and energy campaigning to extend the copyright protection for sound recordings is a nonsense. Now I know the major labels are taking steps to develop new business models to deal with the crisis in monetizing copyrights – The deals by Warners, Universal and SonyBMG with Google and Youtube and Universal’s deal with Microsoft’s new Zune service and hardware are testament to this. But banging on about whether or not Sir Cliff Richard’s albums recorded fifty years ago should be protected by copyright law just misses the point. The BPI needs to get off the Titanic, get into a lifeboat, get rowing, get home and start re-building the new ship – the all new SS Copyright – fit for the digital age.

In fact I am not sure copyright law needs a radical overhaul right now – there is some tweaking that’s needed – maybe a private copyright right and new rights for libraries and archives spring to mind. But like the extension of term, these are peripheral to how copyright law (indeed IF copyright law) can function in a digital age. At the moment the problem is most pressing on the recorded music industry – but as the uptake of broadband increases, the all powerful film industry will become a player and I can’t see them being distracted in the way the BPI have – and that may actually be a good thing for the record industry as new solutions and new business models are looked at.

The association for independent record labels, AIM, came up with a ‘Value Recognition Right’ earlier this year (now called their ‘Value Recognition Strategy’) and this at least begins to highlight the problems being faced by an ‘industry in crisis’. One of the main problems is that some of those who perhaps benefit most from the distribution of recorded music are not part of the paying chain of supply at all. Some consumers pay for their music – this payment goes via their service providers to the record labels and ultimately a share should go back to the artist. But a substantial majority of customers don’t pay for music but do provide traffic for Internet Service Providers, websites and increasingly telecoms companies – who benefit. Music drives the net and music increasingly drives mobile sales and mobile traffic. Radio stations have to pay for the use of recorded music – consumers do too – but some in the ‘value’ chain benefit from the supply of music but pay nothing. AIM are right to look at how this ‘value’ should be monetized by the record labels – although I am not sure anyone quite knows how to achieve this as yet.

I think ultimately we will see a shift in the balance of power in the record industry in favour of Artists. I think this will have to happen as traditional sources of income will just dry up. Indeed I feel that even in the current copyright regime music is seriously undervalued – as I write this comment I have just seen adverts for the Beatle’s new CD and Westlife’s new CD – both under £8 at Tesco in time for Christmas. It’s a difficult dilemma for the record industry to face – but to be frank music was undervalued even before the rise of the internet and peer-2-peer file swapping – its even worse now as music is so easy to ‘acquire’ for free. So we have to ask the question – where is the money in music now? Well certainly in the booming live industry, in merchandising, in music publishing, in radio, in films, in TV and in advertising. But perhaps not in the ytraditonal idea of just ‘selling music’ as a product itself. What might become more prevalent is the monetization of the ‘image’ or brand rights to and in artists – Robbie Williams being a great example as is (taking an example from the world of sport) the ‘business’ of David Beckham being David Beckham: It wouldn’t surprise anyone that the revenue streams resulting from endorsement and advertising contracts can substantially outstrip earnings from record sales. Believe you me Kate Moss makes a darn sight more from her advertising and endorsement contracts that Pete Doherty does from selling Babyshambles CDs and downloads.

So the major labels are going to have to work on their relationships with their artists – it was refreshing to see the head of SonyBMG in the UK, Ged Doherty, acknowledge this in a recent speech. But I write this at the time of the sad news of the death of Ruth Brown who championed for the rights (and payment!) of artists and famously rejected a ‘gift’ of $1000 from the boss of Atlantic Records boss, Ahmet Ertegun, lamenting that the money was ‘crumbs from a rich man’s table’. There is a story that when Ruth finally got enough money to hire a lawyer the money was from her Broadway show, not from record sales of course) her $30,000 negative recoupment position miraculously turned into a $20,000 royalty payment. The Music Managers Forum are fighting hard in this area; at the recent Music Tank Beyond The Soundbytes conference it was a shame and a missed opportunity that the session on new artist contracts was diverted onto – of all things – a lengthy debate on extending the term of copyright for nsound recordings! Keynote speaker Professor Martin Kretschmer and an outstanding panel were well placed to discuss this but in the end time ran out on a discussion on this important issue. I for one would have liked to have heard more. And this is surely where surely the labels need focus their efforts – on building meaningful, co-operative and FAIR contracts with recording artists. Only then can they begin to build new business models and then go to government to ask for new legislation to enable the monetization of music, or the ‘benefit’ of music or even enhanced image right – fit for purpose in the digital age.

‘EMI chief makes final plea to have copyright extended’ The Times 23 November 2006

‘Beyond the Soundbytes’ report by Peter Jenner (and conference report) see

Note to the major record labels – this cartoon (itself a parody of a copyrighted advert published to promote the iPod) says it all ……. Pin it to you wall and cogitate!

“I steal music and I’m not going away”

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