It is not often that government bureaucrats make life better for artists, but this week the EU did just that. Right in the nick of time time to protect the Beatles’ first hit, Love Me Do, from 1962.
The EU directive not only extends copyright on sound recordings from 50 to 70 years, it also includes a substantial new fund for session musicians which is supported by record company revenues.
As the EU Council of Ministers wrote, “Performers generally start their careers young and the current term of protection of 50 years often does not protect their performances for their entire lifetime. Therefore, some performers face an income gap at the end of their lifetimes. They are also often not able to rely on their rights to prevent or restrict objectionable uses of their performances that may occur during their lifetimes.”
This kind of rights protection and demand by artists to be paid for the work they create continues to be opposed by the all-content-should-be-free academics, remixers, and global online content farms. See “If You Like Your Online Content, You Should Love Your Artists” for the most recent background. Or, you can buy Professor Lawrence Lessig’s Remix for the best understanding of the who-cares-who-created-it crowd. (Although do understand that you have to buy Prof. Lessig’s book as “no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without prior permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book”. Go figure.)
So what do the artists and their management have to say about what the EU has done? U2’s manager, Paul McGuinness, called it “a great step forward for artists”. Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA said, “the thousands of lesser known musicians around Europe who are enriching our life and culture can get the fair reward in return for their work that they deserve.”
The change helps to protect artists from being ripped-off. Surely artists should be able to control their own work and prevent it from being used in commercials, political campaigns, or any other attempt for someone else’s profit. It’s only fair.
Artists shouldn’t have to produce work without being acknowledged, let alone compensated. No matter what hipster, academic, or business rep tries to argue otherwise, it’s hard to find any artist creating completely original work that has come out against these initiatives.
Still, the problem is far from resolved. As Helienne Lindvall wrote in The Guardian: “Yet when technocrats protest about European copyright extension, it’s worth pointing out that copyright, in effect, lasts for less than a day. As soon as a record is released, often before that even happens, it’s available on illegal downloading and streaming sites from which the hosts earn advertising money and, sometimes, subscription fees, while artists, producers, session players and songwriters earn nothing. Until the European parliament does something about copyright enforcement this new directive will mean little for the artists it aims to protect.”
In the meantime, isn’t it nice to have a reason to sing along to “Love Me Do.”
- Bill Reichblum