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Music Copyright Extended To 70 Years In Europe, Thanks To Cliff Richard

Posted by: , 14:00 AEST, Wed September 14, 2011

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Music copyright in the EU is extended by a further 20 years, to 70 years, as musician Cliff Richard, and big music, win their argument for more copyright protection


Now known as "Cliff's Law", music copyright in the EU has been extended from the original 50 years to 70 years, a compromise on the original 95 years that had been sought by the music industry, and one Sir Cliff Richard.

Music copyright exists in many forms. Typically, the composer has composer rights, which lasts for the life of the composer plus 70 years thereafter. But of more importance, financially at least, is the recording rights, which is typically shared between the recording artists and the recording label. It is this latter right that has now been extended from the original 50 years after release, to 70 years.

The change comes after musician Sir Cliff Richard's lobbying efforts, with major support from "big music". The United States have already extended rights to 95 years, and the music industry had wanted Europe to follow, but a compromise decision was reached in which 70 years would now be the new cut off for recording rights.

This means that recordings made in 1961, whose recording rights would have expired this year, would now expire in 2031 instead.

Sir Cliff Richard and the music industry have claimed this to be a victory for performers, and session musicians are set to benefit as well. Most signed away their rights to the record labels for immediate payment at the time of the recording, but now, a fund has been set up to allow these musicians to get a 20% slice of the newly "extended" royalty pie.

The other major change is in regards to "reversion", or allowing artists to get back full rights to their songs if the record label no longer has any interest in marketing the song. Artists can now renegotiate rights after 50 years, but many musicians have called for a shorter period, 25 years, to prevent lesser known works from disappearing into the vault of record labels.

And this is perhaps the biggest argument against any copyright extension, as while well known works such as those from Elvis or The Beatles will get extra protection, record labels will now hold on to the rights of lesser known works against the wishes of the artist, with little or no financial reason to take the effort to preserve the original master, some works may be lost forever as a result.



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