EU copyright extension: dangerous?
A posting on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Deeplinks blog by Danny O'Brien sounds an opposing call-to-arms over EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy's proposal for extension of the term of copyright. The proposed Copyright Term Extension Directive seeks to extend the performer copyright period from the current 50 years to 95 years. In his post O'Brien speaks of the "dangers of copyright term extension" and urges that MEPs and individuals http://soundcopyright.eventbrite.com/ attend a public meeting, in Brussels] on January the 27th, hosted by the Open Rights Group as part of their Sound Copyright campaign.
The EEF blog post claims that an extension of the current copyright term would cost consumers billions, most of which would end up in the pockets of the big media companies with most musicians gaining less than 30 Euros a year. According to O'Brien the offical documentation makes it appear that an extension is a charitable policy with no ill effects at all. He says that the Brussels lawmakers are only hearing one side of the story from the Commissioner and that Europe's own leading copyright experts say the Commissioner's statements are misleading. O'Brien claims that an extension might also cause "damage to a robust public domain and democratic access to cultural heritage." The Sound Copyright web page is a little more sober and reasoned and points out that, since recording technology has only been around for about half a century, 50 year copyrights on most recordings are only just about to expire (although Edison patented the phonograph 131 years ago in 1878). Few musicians are lucky enough to enjoy a career of over 50 years. This, they say, is why the record companies that own the mechanical reproduction rights on the early recordings will benefit and not the original artists, at least some of whom are dead.
It's worth considering that the EFF are perhaps standard bearers for the more libertarian groups such as the Free Software movement and that O'Brien has posted on this subject before. It's no secret that many in the Free Software movement seem to think that the concept of copyright itself is evil, rather than the way in which copyright is currently implemented. The real issue here is that copyright law in Europe goes back to the 1700's and despite various tweaks in the mean time has struggled to keep up with the accelerating pace of technology. It is also the case that new copyright legislation is passed by people who perhaps do not understand the technical issues and is greatly influenced by the lobbying power of the big media companies. Despite the problems with copyright, individuals still need to make a living and copyright protects the income of the individual artist as well as big media. The inequity in the division of profits from recording sales between record companies and artists is another issue and a bit of a red herring.