At present, EU legislation only protects sound recordings for 50 years, whereas music and lyrics are protected for the life of the creator plus 75 years.
This means that while the original songwriter earns songwriting royalties, session musicians and their families lose valuable income after the 50-year term expires. In the US, the term of protection for sound recordings lasts 95 years.
Unhappy British session musicians have joined together with Phonographic Performance Ltd, which collects broadcast royalties on behalf of 40,000 musicians to produce Copyright Gap, an album to raise awareness of the perceived shortfall in current legislation.
Copyright Gap features British music from the past 50 years, including works by The Beatles, The Who, the Kinks and the Jam. The widower of Lonnie Donegan was one of the first to donate a track to the album – Cumberland Gap, a record that topped the charts in 1957. ‘What seems most unfair about all this is that someone like Lonnie works all his life and then there’s nothing at the end of it, not even a pension’, Mrs Donegan said to The Times yesterday.
The effect of the lobbying at government level remains to be seen. As IP Review Online reported at the end of last year, the Gower Review chose not to recommend a change to the 50-year term of protection for sound recordings. Indeed, on 26 April, to mark World IP Day, Andrew Gowers told weekly technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio, that he had actually considered lowering the term to less than 50 years, stating: ‘I could have made a case for reducing it based on the economic arguments, [but] in the end we took the politically prudent course. To be honest reducing it in any case would be a very big international debate. It would stand very little chance of making headway in Europe.’
He also reminded music industry critics that the debate needed to be seen in a wider context: ‘You have to start from the realisation that IP is in fact a global system. It just happens to operate through national jurisdictions,’ he said. ‘So the idea that dear old Britain would somehow reinvent the rules of the road and in just one country is almost laughable. The fact is it is an international system operating in many cases through international treaties.’