Copyright protection rights extended for music performers

Out-Law News | 13 Sep 2011 | 1:59 pm | 2 min. read

Music performers will receive 70 years of copyright protection on recordings under new EU laws that have been formally approved.

The Council of Ministers voted to amend the EU's Directive on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights on Monday. The Directive previously stated that music performers had rights to copyright protection for 50 years after recordings. The change brings performers' rights closer to those enjoyed by music composers who currently receive copyright protection on works throughout their life and for 70 years after their death.

The European Commission said that the changes would mean artists would be compensated longer into their lives.

"Most performers start their career in their early 20's or even before. Average life expectancy in the EU today stands at 76.4 years for men and 82.4 years for women," a Commission statement said.

"This means that a performer who lives well into his 80s would not be able to enjoy the benefits of his creation because the term of protection would have already run out at the most vulnerable period of his life. For composers and lyricists, on the other hand, copyright protection lasts throughout their life and for 70 years after their death. The extension of the term of protection for performers now adopted means that artists in Europe will receive a fairer treatment and be assured of a steady income for their performances during their entire lifetime," it said.

The Commission had first proposed changes to the Directive in 2008 and suggested performers should obtain 95 years of copyright protection. However in 2009 the European Parliament only voted to back a Directive that would give performers rights over sound recordings for 70 years.

New EU laws can only be passed following approval by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which is made up of ministers from each EU country.

Decisions by ministers are generally determined by 'qualified majority' with each EU member state allocated a certain number of votes that relate to the population of the country.

A qualified majority is said to have been reached if most of the votes are in favour of the voted-on issue providing that at least 255 out of a possible 345 votes are cast. Even then a country can ask to check whether the majority of votes counted represent at least 62% of the EU population. If it does not, the proposal cannot be adopted.

A Council of Ministers statement (2-page / 32KB PDF) said that the changed Directive was approved despite Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden voting against the plans, and Austria and Estonia abstaining.

Further changes to the Directive (19-page / 127KB PDF) include a right for performers to obtain a 20% cut of revenues on their works gained as a result of the copyright term extension if they had sold their rights to record companies.

The Directive also gives performers the right under certain circumstances to market their own music if the record company does not do so.

The European Commission said that the changes in the law would benefit 7,000 UK performers alone who would otherwise "lose all of their airplay royalties over the next ten years".

"The great majority of these performers are not famous rock singers who have earned millions of pounds or Euros over their career. There are thousands of anonymous session musicians, who contributed to sound recordings in the late fifties and sixties for example," the Commission said.

The Directive must be implemented into national law by member states within two years of the Directive coming into force.