September 12, 2011 | Jim Killock

Copyright term extension is a cultural disaster

This morning we heard that term extension in sound recordings has gone through the EU Council. Term extension is a cultural disaster. It means that it will be harder to publish older works, and many will remain out of print. Research showed that around 90% of the cash windfall from copyright levies will fall into the hands of record labels.

Despite the rhetoric, small artists will gain very little from this, while our cultural heritage takes a massive blow by denying us full access to these recordings for another generation.

The government examined the evidence on this question twice - in the Gowers Review and Hargreaves - and both were highly skeptical. Hargreaves - only a matter of months ago - pointed out that copyright policy needs to be based on evidence, and that for copyright term extension, there was no real evidence of benefit. While Hargreaves shied away, probably for political reasons, from recommending changing course back to rejection, the report was very damning.

Around 15,000 EU citizens signing the Sound Copyright petition against term extension. This helped reduce the proposal from 95 to 70 years and delayed its passing, as many small countries realised they were liable to export capital to US-based companies for no real gain.

The campaign against term extension showed that copyright policy can no longer be a deal done in darkened rooms: the public has a strong interest in the cultural impact of excessive copyright and damaging restrictions. ORG would like to thank everyone who helped throughout the campaign: while decisions like this will always smack of lobbynomics and a political failure to understand the public interest, every time we fight, we become stronger, and our arguments become more compelling. Copyright is now a political battleground. Lobby-based proposals like this are becoming harder and harder to sustain.

Comments (3)

  1. Selena:
    Sep 12, 2011 at 06:44 PM

    The record companies are fat hypocrites living off paychecks that should go the real artists. Writing AND performing.

  2. Marco:
    Sep 13, 2011 at 02:35 AM

    Jim, the article you just put up sounds defeatist. Consider this a temporary setback. Keep on pushing for copyright term reduction to 20 years. Educate the public why it benefits them. Joe Bluecollar could care less about things like Project Gutenberg but if you can provide a website for public domain music in various formats, this will get big time attention. The "public" doesn't know what public domain is. That is what needs to change.

    1. Jim Killock:
      Sep 17, 2011 at 05:08 PM

      That's a very good point. The value of the public domain should be more obvious to people, and we need to work to make sure that's understood.