Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Government to Cliff: Let your records be free

Music Week is reporting that the government has decided to back the findings of the Gowers report and, in particular, its recommendation that the current fifty-year copyright period for sound recordings be allowed to stand:

[T]he DCMS says it backs that Review and states that, "It does not seem appropriate for the Government to press the EC for action at this stage."

In its formal response the Government said it “appreciates the work” of the select committee, but backed the Gowers Review, which had recommended the 50 year protection should be retained.

In discussing the various reports debating term, the 12-page response noted: "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."

The government's decision goes against the recommendation of the DCMS select committee who found time between Brits and MTV awards trips to suggest that the music industry had a point.

Talking of whom, the music industry is not happy:
BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor slammed the Government’s position. He says, “This was a test of Government support for British music which it has failed. Ministers appear to have selective hearing on this issue – they have ignored the views of artists and their union, managers, record labels and now even a Parliamentary Select Committee.

"Opposition MPs and many Labour backbenchers understand the value of fair copyright and support term extension. We will continue to put forward the strong case for fair copyright in Europe. It is profoundly disappointing that we are forced to do so without the backing of the British government.”"

Not that the BPI are bad losers or anything, but it's a little galling that they just assume the government has ignored all the pro-extenstion 'evidence', rather than being swayed by a stronger argument.
John Kennedy, IFPI chairman and CEO, says, "The UK is a world-beating source of great music, so it is frustrating that on the issue of copyright term the Government has shown scant respect for British artists and the UK recording industry. 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 as an exciting music market.”"

Kennedy's reaction perhaps crystalises why the pro-extension lobbyists have lost the debate: they couldn't all be right. Cliff and his friends were stressing how extending copyright would give musicians a pension, but if the extended copyright funds were going to be reinvested in new artists by the music industry companies, how could that benefit individual pensioners?

And once stripped of the "starving pensioner" lie, the argument for copyright extension started to look as thin as Lionel Richie's daughter - after all, the "exciting music market" in the UK wasn't founded in the 1950s by flogging music from 1880, and even in the 1990s, catalogue sales of wartime recordings didn't prove to be essential to ensure that there was money in the pot to pay for EMF to make videos - so why would extending copyright make a difference?

Unless, of course, the labels have been having fewer and fewer successes in the last few years - but if that's true, then there isn't an "exciting music market" to protect. Either we've got a cultural powerhouse which is doing well - so doesn't need to scrabble around in granny's attic for a few extra quid; or we don't, and what would be the point in changing the law simply to shore up an industry already in decline?