Copyright term extension returns. Again.

Back in April we asked ORG supporters to write to their MEPs to help campaign against a Directive that would extend the term of copyright protection in sound recordings (for the reasons why, see our previous posts and the campaign site ‘Sound Copyright‘). We had a fantastic response, with thousands of letters sent to MEPs across Europe.

Since then the trail has run a little cold. The European Parliament did not get a new vote. The Directive remained in play, on the verge of being passed.*

It now seems that the proposal will go before the ‘Coreper’ meeting on 7th September. The small group of nations that were blocking the proposal have changed their position, so it is likely to be waved through and become EU law. (See Martin Kretschmer’s blog for more).

This comes only a couple of months after Professor Ian Hargreaves’ review ‘Digital Opportunity’ recommended evidence-based IP policy and picked out ‘term extension’ as one of the clearest examples of where IP policy has ignored the available economic evidence.

In July, the Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries Ed Vaizey MP told the industry group BPI AGM that the Government will ‘continue to support moves in Europe to extend copyright in sound recordings.’

This was only a month or so after the publication of Professor Hargreaves’ report. The review highlights that ‘the UK Government’s own economic impact assessment…estimated that extension would cost the UK economy up to £100m over the extended term’. The Government recently set out their response to Professor Hargreaves’ findings, suggesting that they accepted his recommendations. So it is a peculiar decision to support the Directive’s passing. It’s also a little peculiar that to establish the UK Government’s policy on this term extension decision one has to look in the depths of a speech given to an industry representative body.

We have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Business to set out our concerns, and to request that the UK opposes the Directive. We’ll keep you posted on developments this week.

* As with EU policy making, there’s a complicated story behind this. The MEP Christian Engström tried to get the European Council to give the European Parliament another vote on the Directive. He argued, under a slightly obscure rule of EU procedures, that this was required as a new Parliament was voted in after the original vote in 2009. Whilst he managed to get the requisite number of signatures, he did not manage to secure a new vote. Trying to understand the machinations of the European Union’s democratic institutions can be quite a slog. We blogged about this in April here.