The UK government has rejected the idea of extending music copyright beyond 50 years, prompting protests from ageing rockers whose work will soon be in the public domain.
Ministers yesterday issued a response (pdf, page 11) to recommendations made by the Parliamentary culture'n'media committee, which said the government should push the European Union for a copyright term of "at least 70 years".
The government disagreed, citing the independent Gowers Review, in which ex-Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers probed the issue.
"The review... 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," said ministers.
"[Gowers] 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... 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."
US royalties last for 95 years.
The government position attracted vocal opposition from some artists. The BBC quotes 63-year-old groovester Roger Daltrey - whose first works will go out of copyright in seven years - as saying that musicians "enriched people's lives", and that they were "not asking for a handout, just a fair reward for their creative endeavours".
Other advocates of longer copyright include veteran popster Cliff Richard - for whom the cutoff point is even closer. Tory leader David Cameron is also a member of the extensionist camp.
Unsurprisingly, music-industry bodies also felt that free oldie-pop would be bad for Blighty.
The Guardian quoted Fran Nevrkla, kingpin of Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), the outfit which collects the rakeoff from clubs, restaurants, and broadcasters: "This announcement effectively makes all performers and record companies second class citizens," he said.
IFPI spokesman John Kennedy said: "Some of the greatest works of British music will soon be taken away from the artists who performed them and the companies that invested in them. Extending copyright term would promote vital investment in young talent and new music, all of which will help to secure the UK's future..."
Daltrey foretold penury for wrinkly rockers, saying they had "no pensions and rely on royalties". He stuck to the position that other eldsters - presumably the people most likely to enjoy their work - should subsidise their retirement through pricier music. ®