Beatles Could Lose EU Copyrights in 2013

The EU may follow Britain's expected rejection of a bid to extend copyright on sound recordings, leaving early Fab Four performances vulnerable

The UK treasury is set to refuse extending copyright on sound recordings from 50 years to 95 years when a report looking at intellectual property rights in the UK is published next week, in a situation that could see EU copyright expire on some Beatles songs in 2013.

Across the European Union, authors of songs and their families benefit from copyright for the whole of their lives plus 70 years, while performers of songs and their producers benefit for just 50 years from the date of recording - as in the case of some Cliff Richard songs from 1958 and some Beatles songs from 1963.

Perfomers and producers have banded together to ask for the same treatment as authors, arguing that 50 years is not long enough, especially as life expectancy has increased by seven years for men and women in Europe over the last few decades.

The British Phonographic Industry together with high profile recording artists such as Cliff Richard and Mick Hucknall from Simply Red have argued that a term extension is vital to the industry's ability to bring in new acts and as a pension scheme for retired musicians, especially the lesser known session musicians and backing singers.

But the UK treasury is to say the benefits are not significant enough to justify the change, according to the BBC. London will instead on 6 December recommend keeping the status quo in a move that could set the trend for the rest of Europe.

A European Commission decision on the same subject is not expected until 2008, with John Kennedy, head of the recording industry lobby IFPI saying "If the UK government decides not to support copyright equalisation then the music industry will have to continue its campaign in Europe."

"There [in the EU] the signs are encouraging, but there is no doubt that there will be raised eyebrows and the question will be asked 'Why should Europe help the music industry when the government of the most important music market in Europe and the government of EMI has decided not to?'"

In the US, performers and producers hold recording rights for between 95 and 120 years, while performers in Mexico get 75 years and 70 years in Chile, Brazil, Peru and Turkey.

Meanwhile, an EUobserver-organised conference on the topic of EU digital music rights will see both Mr John Kennedy and single market commissioner Charlie McCreevy thrash out the issues in Brussels on Wednesday (29 November).

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