November 26, 2008 | Becky Hogge

From bad to worse: MEPs to rush through disembowelled term extension directive.

image courtesy of harrymetcalfe@FlickrThe flawed proposal to extend the term of copyright protection afforded to sound recordings, robbing consumers in the name of performers but for the benefit of the world’s four major record labels, is being fast-tracked through the democratic process. Earlier this month MEPs from the relevant European Parliament committees presented their draft reports at a meeting of the legal affairs committee (JURI), the Committee which will make recommendations to the European Parliament on how to vote on the Directive early next year. They proposed a host of worrying new amendments which threaten to:

  • Weaken further already inadequate measures intended to allow orphan works, and commercially worthless but culturally significant recordings to pass into the public domain (Culture (CULT), Internal Market (IMCO) and the Industry, Technology and Research (ITRE) committees draft reports).
  • Allow record labels to deduct “costs” from a fund intended to benefit session musicians, further shrinking the pot of money made available to performers in favour of labels (IMCO committee draft report).
  • Dramatically widen the scope of the Directive to include audio-visual recording, even though no relevant impact assessment has been conducted into what effect this might have on consumers and follow-on innovators. (JURI and ITRE committee draft reports).
At the JURI meeting, Dr Lionel Bently of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL) Cambridge, dismissed the proposal stating that “record producers will gain the lion’s share of revenues on sales in the extended term”. He warned that the Directive would accrue serious social and economic costs, and concluded that MEPs should “oppose this measure in its totality.”

Bently is not the only expert to oppose the Directive. In an open letter to MEPs, Europe’s leading intellectual property research centres unanimously condemned the proposal. The European Broadcast Union has also stated publicly that the proposal will make consumers foot the bill while stifling innovation.

Earlier this month ORG met with MEPs in the European Parliament to express our serious concerns about the proposal. We warned that the European Commission’s own figures demonstrate that performers will benefit little from the extended term, while the world’s four major record labels will gain millions of Euros direct from consumer’s pockets. We argued that this damaged the respect necessary for a functioning IP system.

But our voice is not as powerful as yours. It’s vital that you contact your MEPs now and tell them why term extension is bad news.

With all the evidence pointing against this measure, you can call on your MEPs to put a stop to bad IP law and reject this proposal. You can also also tell the appropriate government department in your own EU country (in the UK it is DCMS), as they will be meeting in the Council of Ministers to discuss term extension.

With the European elections next year, Parliament is set to move quickly on this issue. It’s up to you to remind your representatives that their job is to look out for your interests, not to rush through bad law.

Image courtesy of Steve Cadman.