Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Going for a Song: Changing the Intellectual Copyright Laws Spells Disaster for the Creative Community, Says Becky Hogge

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Going for a Song: Changing the Intellectual Copyright Laws Spells Disaster for the Creative Community, Says Becky Hogge

Article excerpt

After nine months' gestation, Andrew Gowers is to deliver his review into UK intellectual property law. Commissioned by the Treasury, it has attracted a cacophony of responses to its call for evidence. In the internet era, intellectual property law is a polarising issue. Whereas many in the creative industries see state-granted protections such as copyright as a key defence in the digital age, those in the tech world see it as arcane in a time when information can be shared at the click of a mouse.

An issue generating a lot of noise is the proposal that copyright in sound recordings be extended from 50 to 95 years. A golden age in recorded sound is about to "fall" into the public domain, and the end of the world for the recording industry (and, coincidentally, the ancient Mayans) is 2012, the final year the Beatles' 1962 recording of "Love Me Do" is protected by copyright. The actual composition is protected until 70 years after Sir Paul McCartney's death.

Sir Cliff Richard, who unlike McCartney did not compose many of his own songs, has been campaigning on the issue for more than two years. He characterises recording royalties as a pension for artists, and voices supporting him in the press have argued that a failure to extend the term would represent "the greatest pension fund raid of all time". But as digital rights campaigner ORG points out, the figures tell a different story.

Thanks to the recording industry's standard practice of recouping production and promotional costs from artists' royalties in sales, only around 20 per cent of musicians who cut a record receive any royalties at all. …

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