Musicians push for rights extension

European Commission considers proposal

LONDON — Lobbying is intensifying as European Commissioners meet this week to consider extending the copyright term on recorded music.

The music industry is pushing for European legislators to lengthen copyright protection for recorded music from 50 to 95 years, which would bring the musicians who perform on records closer to the levels of composers and songwriters who helped create the music.

Arguing against those rights are the likes of Internet and communications companies, which are hoping to exploit music that is no longer protected by copyright.

In the U.K., the Musicians’ Union is urging European regulators not to short change performers as they consider European Commissioner Charlie McCreevy’s proposals to extend the term of performers’ rights.

Currently the music that is written by composers and songwriters in the U.K. is protected for 70 years after the author’s death, meaning that the writer’s family can still earn royalties from the music. The musicians who perform on the records, on the other hand, lose any right to compensation 50 years after the track was first released.

In a statement, Herbie Flowers, who played on tracks including Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” said: “The term of protection for performers has not kept up with life expectancy and it is high time it was changed. I played on a couple of very successful tracks, and it would be unfair for me to stop receiving income for these performances after 50 years — probably just at the time when I will need it the most.

“This argument is not about a handful of extremely rich signed artists, it is about a huge number of highly skilled session musicians who are being short changed under the current system.”

John Smith, general secretary of the U.K. Musicians’ Union, added: “By adopting McCreevy’s proposals, the European Commission would at last begin to acknowledge the contribution made by performers to European creativity, and go a considerable way to affording them a long overdue official recognition of their talent.”

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