House of Commons culture committee rules in favour of copyright term extension on sound recordings

The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport has today released its Fifth Report – an investigation into New Media.

The report endorses performing artists’ call for an extension to the term of copyright in sound recordings (although, as Copyweb points out, this slightly confuses rights in performances with rights in sound recordings).

The Committee’s logic looks simple:

“Gowers’ analysis was thorough and in economic terms may be correct. It gives the impression, however, of having been conducted entirely on economic grounds. We strongly believe that copyright represents a moral right of a creator to choose to retain ownership and control of their own intellectual property. We have not heard a convincing reason why a composer and his or her heirs should benefit from a term of copyright which extends for lifetime and beyond, but a performer should not.”

Gowers did couch his report in economic terms. His idea of balance matched the needs of creators against those of consumers and innovators.

But he didn’t just do this because he was commissioned by the Treasury. He was reflecting the current position of UK law. Current UK law regards copyright as an economic incentive to create, or, as Gowers puts it “a purely statutory right created for the utilitarian purpose of encouraging literary efforts”.

It seems the House of Commons Select Committee is not arguing for an extension to term, it is arguing for a fundamental change to the law, a law for which there are plenty of “convincing reasons” which can all be couched in moral terms.

But it may just as likely be the case that the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport simply doesn’t know its law properly.