UK Government says no to term extension

Back in May, we reported on the House of Commons Culture Committee’s misguided decision to recommend that the term of copyright in sound recordings be extended. The recommendation come despite compelling evidence that as well as harming consumers and follow on innovators, such a move would bring no benefit to the majority of UK recording artists and would result in a net loss to the UK economy. It also came couched in language that betrayed a basic misunderstanding of copyright law on behalf of the Committee.

Today the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have responded to the Culture Committee, and the good news is they’ve rejected the recommendation to extend term. From the official response:

“The Government appreciates the work of the Committee and the deliberation it has given to thissubject. As the Committee noted, the independent Gowers Review also considered this issue in detail and recommended that the European Commission retain a term of protection for sound recordings and performers of 50 years. The Review undertook a detailed analysis of all the arguments put forward, including the moral arguments regarding the treatment of performers. It concluded that an extension would not benefit the majority of performers, most of whom have contractual relationships requiring their royalties be paid back to the record label. It also concluded that an extension would have a negative impact on the balance of trade and that it would not increase incentives to create new works. Furthermore, it considered not just the impact on the music industry but on the economy as a whole, and concluded that an extension would lead to increased costs to industry, such as those who use music – whether to provide ambience in a shop or restaurant or for TV or radio broadcasting – and to consumers who would have to pay royalties for longer. In reaching such conclusions, the Review took account of the question of parity with other countries such as the US, and concluded that, although royalties were payable for longer there, the total amount was likely to be similar – or possibly less – as there were fewer revenue streams available under the US system.

“An independent report, commissioned by the European Commission as part of its ongoing work in reviewing the copyright acquis, also considered the issue of term. It reached the same overall conclusion on this matter as the Gowers Review.

“Taking account of the findings of these reports, which carefully considered the impact on the economy as a whole, and without further substantive evidence to the contrary, it does not seem appropriate for the Government to press the Commission for action at this stage.”

You can download the full response here. It’s worth a read in full, as the Committee’s report, on the whole and apart from the recommendations regarding copyright term, made some good recommendations for New Media and DCMS’s responses are generally good too.

As the BPI point out in today’s press, this means that they will have to take their fight for copyright term extension to Europe without the support of the UK government. This is significant, since the UK government is likely to have a disproportionately loud voice on this issue both because it is home to the most lucrative recording industry in Europe and because it has taken the time to review this issue in detail.