back to article Radiohead and chums demand copyright 'fair play'

A pop stars' pressure group has called for copyright in sound recordings to be extended beyond the current 50-year term, but has said that artists should be given control of the copyright after 50 years. The European Commission and European Parliament are debating proposals to extend the period of protection for sound …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It won't work

    "but has said that artists should be given control of the copyright after 50 years."

    The record companies will simply make them sign an agreement to re-license the works to them at the 50 years mark. (i.e. an agreement to sign a future agreement). This is how these time limits are usually bypassed.

    And extension past the death of the artist is another BIG problem area. It means at that point the rights are detached from the creator and so you would then be forced to accept rights as abstract things to be bought and sold.

    People like McCreevy want to create a market in such rights as a capitalism thing, i.e. Europe can buy and sell RIGHTS to play music made by long dead artists and so make itself a bigger fluffier 'richer' economy.

    I think he's a f**ing moron (pardon my language). Because people can only listen to so much music, so every song from a long dead artist displaces a song from a modern one. He cannot grow the market to be bigger than it is, he can only create fake holding companies of artificially created rights that move the income from artists to those holding companies. Worse still, those companies will operate from low tax places outside the EU.

    What I think they need to do is end the right when the artist dies. Force the right to be re-licensed by the artist every 5 years, specifically blocking contracts that require automatic relicensing. i.e. attach the right firmly to the creator who will be an EU citizen and more likely to bring the money into the EU.

    As soon as you allow the separation of the rights from the person, those rights travel to the cheapest place they can be sold from. The artist may want to live in France, but the rights to their work can live in Cyprus or the British Virgin Islands, or...

    Move it into the public domain on their death, or otherwise terminate it's exclusivity value. Like the devaluing of all other long dead artists work, as a means to clearing way for the new.

    The idea of descendant benefits I find abhorrent. The idea that the descendants of an artist can get the same benefit from the artists work.... this is why we have inheritence tax, to reduce the amount of money that can be handed down, and so drive children to work like their parents did.

    It (inheritance tax) is specifically to reduce CAPITAL from generation to generation, here's this is one worse, they're proposing to not even reduce INCOME from generation to generation. Are they nuts?

  2. Richard Kay

    copyright extension results in public contempt

    The longer the duration of copyright the more difficult it becomes to persuade consumers whose interests are sidelined by these deals to behave in a manner that respects copyright. The UK Gowers report and recent US Supreme Court rulings found there to be no commercial purpose in extending copyright beyond the period needed to incentivise the creation of work which otherwise would not be created. The reason these copyright extension deals are struck is because politicians like to be supported by the interests vested in it and not because of any defensible public benefit.

    The rest of us who are taxed without representation by these disreputable backdoor deals are given ever less reason to behave as if copyright mattered.

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  4. Paul Banacks


    If anything it should go the other way.

    Copyright on music should be no more than 10 years.

  5. Paul Kinsler Silver badge


    So maybe I should campaign for the copyright on my physics research papers to be returned to me after 50 years.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rights to the author.

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

    Exactly right, and this should go for work-for-hire too. If the BBC, for example, paid an actor in the 50s for his work, his wage would have been calculated on the assumption that the work was the BBC's property for 50 years. To double that timespan could theoretically mean halving his wage....

  7. ShaggyDoggy

    10 Years

    I agree with Paul Banacks that 10 years is sufficient.

    Surely the present 50 years is more than enough time to extract every conceivable penny from the public, so what do they expect to happen after that ?

    Of course it's a complete coincidence that the 'rock' era started approx 50 years ago ....

  8. Len Goddard

    Mickey Mouse

    My understanding is that the current (obscene) 95 year limit was basically introduced as an extension to the previous (marginally less obscene) 75 year limit in the US so that Disney could retain copyright on Mickey Mouse. Presumably when the Mouse looks like coming out of copyright it will be extended again.

    I see absolutely no reason why the EU should follow them down this slippery slope. They are just taking the Mickey out of all of us.

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  10. Hugh_Pym

    Old style music industry.

    A lot of people have made a lot of money in the space that existed between the artist and the consumer. This is because they could control the production and distribution channels. The internet has reduced the space and they can see they are losing control so this large group of industry insiders are trying to stop change. They know change will come but can't accept it because it means commercial suicide. Most of the commercial part of this huge industry is in effect already redundant. Why would they vote for change?

    The artists coalition is the first sign of the old guard being swept away. Good thing I say.

  11. Jerome
    Thumb Down

    FAC: "give us more money"

    "both artists and consumers stand to gain from this proposal"

    While it's readily apparent that the artists would come out of this deal pretty well, I'd _love_ to hear someone from the FAC explain what on earth consumers get out of it.

    "The digital revolution has swept away the old music business of the 1960s"

    Someone ought to warn Mr. Rowntree that a lot more than that has been swept away. Old-style copyright laws are starting to look increasingly irrelevant these days. When a law is patently only beneficial to a tiny minority of the populace, the majority will simply begin to ignore it.

  12. hans-peter carpenter

    WTF, 50 years is too much already????

    If artists sell their rights to their music, well they should not get it back after 50, 60 or 70 years. .... would you want the descendants of musicians to decide on what should happen with da music?

    If said rights are only valid 50 years, cool, after that music covered by those rights belongs to everybody!

    Why give the music back to artists, don't get it ....

    And who is the twat who wants to extend the rights of labels to 95 years, find him, line him up and pull the trigger!

    Please, dearest E.U. representatives, you represent me, I voted for YOU. Lobbbyists fill your bank accounts, ok. However, for once in your life, understand that I gave YOU YOUR JOB, TO DEFEND ME and MY INTERESTS!!!!! So please, defend my interests and say NO to the 95 years clause and NO to the "after 50 years the rights go back to the artist".

  13. system

    RE: Can someone explain?

    Consumers would benefit from no longer being screwed by faceless corporations. Now you'd be able to put a name to the guy who's tickling your ring, and who wouldn't want Cliff Richard bending them over?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    in their own world

    The copyright has been an idea which has outlived its socially justifiable lifespan a long time ago. First of all I am not against copyright as such. I am against the idea that copyright should be looked upon as something isolated from the rest of the socio-cultural world. It must be put into context of other rights such as patent rights etc and also into context of consumer rights. It is typical that the agenda is run by self selected interest groups and unfortunately the lobbying activity is usually not met with competent counterpart. Or if it is not political ignorance and lack of will then I can only assume that corruption has come into play. When people talk about the importance of rights for the good of the society etc they should remember the context of those rights. There is a world outside the copyright which is balanced by other rights. As an example we could have a look at the industry researching drugs and medicins etc. Obviously those expensive and uncertain projects which are required to develop new drugs which may or may not be of any use, require protection. As long as the state is not interested in covering all of the cost of research into new drugs those companies that do engage in those risky projects need to have rights so that they could survive and stay in business. Even though this is of enourmous importance and their rights are well protected they are nowhere near as long timewise. In most countries the right to protect drugs and medication only lasts for a few years - not fifty and certainly would never be even considered to be extended to 95!

    If drugs are so important to society and they are still only protected for a few years (ten years?) - surely those rights which are only in place to protect personal gain of corporations and individuals do not justify a tenfold protection!

    Then there are consumer rights - it is inconceivable that any of these issues are ever discussed without taking into consideration consumer rights. There are historically justifiable reasons for why we in many countries have well developed consumer legislation (perhaps not so much in the UK but in most other Ehuropean countries). I see no justifiable reason for why copyright should be looked upon in isolation from other legislation which is in place to accomodate and regulate the relationships between producer and consumer; or seller and buyer. Until recently in many countries consumer right meant that a copyright owner did NOT have the right to constrain the use of their product. This meant that copy protection was legal to circumvent for personal use - e.g. in many countries it was legal to record on tape LP's or CD' s as long as you owned the original. Today however the copyright owners are (in the US for example) applying legislation which is intended to prevent people to break and circumvent encryption technology. This legislation is used by copyright owners to sabotage the consumer right to make legal copies of legally obtained material. The result has been that the existing consumer right has been purposefully circumvented by representatives of rightsholders.

    If this had been a tax matter the legislators would have actively pursued and antagonised such significant effort by the rightsholders to circumvent existing regulations and traditionally developed rights and relationships. It is NOT the case that the "creative industries" are promoting a business model from last century - looking at their practices more closely they are promoting a business model which they never had and which they never had a right to either! If they were indeed promoting their business model in practice from last century - I am convinced that fewer people would be antagonised by them. The creative industries had never the technological possibilities to control their work in the way that they are promoting now.

  15. Christoph

    45 years should be enough

    45 extra years will be enough time for everyone to have forgotten about this, so they can then lobby for the "desperately needed" extension to 200 years total.

  16. J

    95 years?!

    I was under the impression that copyright was created to allow writers to profit from their work for a reasonable period of time; after which it became public domain.

    In modern culture, with global marketing and viral advertising, nothing will take longer than 1 year to make a profit, otherwise the businesses in charge wouldn't make it in the first place.

    Copyright should therefore be no longer than 5 years. This is more than enough time for profits to be made on the movie, song, album, DVD, BluRay, etc and after that period it should enter the public domain and be freely available.

    This would force inovation and creativity on the part of artists and hopfully weaken the choke hold big business has on the arts. Why should these businesses profit from work that was done 50 years ago? 100 yearsr ago? I don't get paid for the work I did when I was 20 anymore. Why should music or film be any different?

  17. Pete James

    cow's arse, banjo

    I think the aim of the group - to allow for the creator to have title after a period of time - is being missed here. It also seems to me that politicians, ever unable to do even the simplest of jobs, are making a complete mess of things again.

    To me the ideal solution is really very simple. Make it a requirement that copyright of artistic works are passed to the creator after x years, with no allowance for an extension to be either assumed, requested or given - so the companies cannot hold on to the copyright or attempt to get the artist to waive their rights. In the absence of the creator being alive - say, Hendrix - the title can either pass to immediate relatives of no more than one generation following the creator, or be put into the public domain of the birth country of the creator.

    So, in time all artistics works fall into the public domain, and the citizens of that country can enjoy some benefit from the work of one of their predecessors. Greedy recording companies are required to work a damned sight harder to get their cash instead of relying on a fat portfolio, artists get some reward after a long period of time - in reality probably very little if anything - and the title passes into general free use following that period.

    Works for me.

  18. Chris

    @Lloyd Patton

    No Radiohead are hypocrites. Remember when they said they wouldn't do global tours anymore because of the ecological impact of flying? Earlier this year their management booked a huge number of seats on multiple flights for them, their entourage and several tons of equipment to ... go on a global tour. Cnuts.

  19. Jerome

    @ Lloyd Patton

    What on earth gave you the impression that Radiohead are freetards? Was it their publicity-grabbing "pay what you like" stunt with In Rainbows? The one where people who actually paid ended up with crappy low-bitrate MP3 copies of the songs and no album artwork? The one where Thom Yorke said afterwards that they'll all be buying the "real" album anyway, since people don't want downloads? Or perhaps it's their website, with its anti-capitalist rants, where they sell T-shirts for £18 a pop?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    .. are 20 years because after that they are deemed to be commonplace or obivious etc, why the hell shoudl they get more than that on copyright, either make patents 50 years or bring copyright in line with patents

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give me copyright or give me death


    Copyright expiring after death - from my understanding this is one of the music industry's back-up options.

    What will happen when a work is copyrighted by multiple people. As those people slowly die off what will happen when slightly newer versions off the original work are written by a new group of people but including members of the previous group?

    Surely they could effectively achieve indefinite copyright.

    As for McCreevy wanting to create a capitalist market in this area, I think you credit him with a lot more creative foresight than he actually has. After all it is almost the end of the mandate for the Commission, I'm sure he must be looking forward to his next move.

    Although I understand he is more into flogging live horses than dead horses....

  22. Martin Jones

    Please stop calling these people "Artists"

    Art is art, it is made to be enjoyed.

    People that obsess about earnings and money are making Commodities, not Art.

    They are Manufacturers, not artists.

    Stop sign to encourage the Reg to label these muppets accordingly.

  23. Matt Siddall


    Copyright is a dubious creation. I can see how it is desirable to encourage people to create new works, and giving them the "right" to control who is allowed to copy the work is one way to do it, and to let them get money from the work. But at the same time, it is restricting society's access to the work.

    What we need to do is balance the good of the creator with the good of society.

    It is worth bearing in mind that copyright has only existed since about 1710. At that time, a statute was introduced in Britain that gave the artist ownership of a piece of work for 14 years. Since then, the scope and duration have been vastly expanded, of course.

    I would argue that in today's society, with digital distribution and massive amounts of data flowing around the system, we should lower the period of copyright. I'd suggest something like two years, because let's face it - if you can't make your money back in two years, you're never going to.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: 95 years?! By J

    Although I agree raising to 95 years is unacceptable I agree that there should be some reasonable amount of time for copyright to last.

    Music may be rather time-limited but there are other things like books, TV shows, films and such where there is often longer than 5 years between series. Copyright lapsing after 5 years would mean that the authors could lose control of what is still a lucrative venture over which they should be entitled to make money if people are prepared to pay said money.

    Piracy aside, if you don't want to give a particular author, actor, singer, songwriter, record association or whatever money then you are not forced to buy the product they are hawking.

  25. Matt Siddall

    @Pete James

    "To me the ideal solution is really very simple. Make it a requirement that copyright of artistic works are passed to the creator after x years"

    Just a quick point... If you sold me something, and 10 years later I turned around and demanded it back, because you'd had it for too long - you'd think there was something fishy going on.

    If singers/songwriters/"artists" want copyright to revert to them after a period of time, they have to state that in the original agreement where they sell the rights. It's no good having the law change things for you at a later date...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    IP = Intellectual Privilege

    The only good reason for an extension of copyright is that there isn't enough music (books, whatever) being created. Anyone noticed this happening?

    Governments should serve the public - and that includes the public domain. That is the mechanism which enriches society in the long run. Governments have no business protecting any particular industry from its own folly - else we'd be paying royalties to the plumber, every time we flushed the loo.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    99% of all musicians

    struggle to make a living at all. It seems a tad unfair to take away what little protection they have left against being ripped off from all sides. Maybe copyright payments could involve a sliding scale or maximum annual payment or the like ?

    If you want to make life more difficult for record companies & labels, some simple rules about transparent, honest, accurate and timely accounting, plus up-front notification of charges, would be enough to recreate the whole industry.

    In his new autobiography (highly recommended, not music biz PR trash but an interesting and readable book) drummer Bill Bruford points out that all the experimental jazz work he has done over the last 20 years has been subsidised by payments from (only relatively) more popular work over the last 40 years. This seems to me an example of a benefit of copyright payments - irrespective of what you think of jazz, an artist is able to explore new ideas independently of private or state patronage by investing their own money.

  28. Joc

    Never a truer word spoken

    "Art is art, it is made to be enjoyed.

    People that obsess about earnings and money are making Commodities, not Art.

    They are Manufacturers, not artists."

    Couldn't agree more - and whats more, generally highly derivative manufacturers. Imagine if music fell under the same dubious restrictions as software (via patents) - oh you cant use them three notes together I own the patent on that, there wouldn't have been anything new released this century!

    Now (as a fellow manufacturer) if only I could potentially be making money out of one days work for the next 90 years I'd probably be a happy man living as a tax exile too !

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Can someone explain?

    It's called having your cake and eating it. However, it's possible that the artists have woken up to the fact that the change in copyright length only benefits the companies and the big stars, whilst the small acts are losing out.

    Under the old system, many bands benefited when the copyright expired - and it was argued that extending the copyright as Sir Cliff wanted, would damage the 'pensions' of many an artist.

    The reason for this, was that the copyright holders (i.e. record companies) are only interesting in re-releasing work that's sell enough units to be 'worth its while.' So while there will be always Cliff records on sale, many of his contemporaries won't be in the same position. The later camp can be categorised as smaller acts whose work won't sell hundreds of thousands of copies, but it will shift a few hundred or even a few thousand. As soon as the copyright expires, these bands were able re-releasing the old albums - the fans were able to to buy the music they haven't been able to for years, whilst the acts made a few bob. Most acts don't get fabulous deals in the first place and in the 50's and 60's there are loads of people that didn't get a fair whack when they signed up.

  30. Tom


    "Bill Bruford points out that all the experimental jazz work he has done over the last 20 years has been subsidised by payments from (only relatively) more popular work over the last 40 years."

    So in another 10 years his early work will start to go into the public domain. As long as he is still producing music in 10 years he will have 50 years worth of music paying him money. Do you think he will still be producing music in 20 years? If yes he will still have 50 years worth.

    How is that different then all the artists who subsidize their work from a day job?

    Should we give Bill more money because he might spend it on more music? What about the guy working days at Office Despot should he get more? What if Bill spends the money on beer?

    They want more money... ask anyone on the street if they want more money. Same answer.

  31. Richard Porter
    Thumb Down

    Please can I get paid for what I was doing 50 years ago?

    It's all very well for the likes of Sir Harry Webb, but many recordings would never get re-released if copyright was extended. The original recording companies would just sit on the recordings doing nothing, so the artists would get nothing anyway. As it is we can enjoy many classic recordings made over 50 years ago precisely because they can now be released without hinderance or royalties.

    Yes it would be nice to get paid for what one was doing fifty years ago, but most of us had to pay into our pension plans when the pop stars were enjoying their wealth.

  32. ShaggyDoggy


    Nobody is saying Cliff will not have an INCOME from the out-of-copyright stuff. The savvy artists/families are setting up "authentic" branding e.g "Experience Hendrix" so that even if non-copyright stuff abounds, the buyer will want to get the pukka and genuine item from the actual source, not some dodgy pressing from a no-name source (heck, they can get that now if they want).

  33. John Bailey

    Serious question

    Realistically, how many songs are still being sold 50+ years after release? And how many fizzle out to nothing after 2-3 years.

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