The committee published its recommendation in a 16 May report, which can be seen as a vote of no-confidence in one of the most contentious tenets of last year’s Gowers Review of UK IP.
The Review, published in December, was sceptical about the benefits of increasing the term, and went to great lengths to debunk what it saw as the mythical impacts of allowing it to stay as it is. To dispel the notion that UK bands will be forced to sign to US labels in order to obtain 95-year terms, the Review drew on surprisingly topical evidence provided by the Scissor Sisters and Orson – US bands who are not only signed to UK labels, but have had greater success in Britain than in their homeland. Blur’s drummer, David Rowntree, appeared in the text to support this point, saying: ‘I have never heard of a single [band] deciding not to record a song because it will fall out of copyright in “only” 50 years. The idea is laughable.’
On the question of cold, hard cash, the Review argued: ‘… many economists suggest that increasing the copyright term beyond 50 years does not provide additional incentives to invest, as monies earned so far in the future fail to impact on current spending decisions.’
The Culture committee rebuffed these arguments on largely moral grounds, saying: ‘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 [until 70 years after composer’s death – News Ed], but a performer should not.’ It also highlighted what amounts to a looming crisis in the UK’s culture of pensionable performers, thousands of whom are set to lose rights to recordings they made in the 1950s and 60s over the next ten years. In the committee’s view, the 50-year term no longer fits in with the demands of the UK’s ageing population.
Speaking at the end of an 18-month investigation into the cultural effects of digital media, committee chairman, John Whittingdale, said: ‘Creative industries are already of huge importance to our economy and are going to play an even bigger part in the future. New media offer terrific opportunities for businesses to develop new markets while consumers are already seeing an enormous increase in the choice available, both in the range of content and how they access it.
‘However, there are also challenges to ensure that consumers are protected and that creators continue to receive proper payment for the use of their works. By strengthening the protection of intellectual property and the rights of creators, we can ensure that Britain continues to be one of the world's leading centres for the creative industries.’