Pop campaigners call for copyright review

Jewels of the British rock and pop industry catalogue are at risk because of outdated laws affecting copyright of sound recordings, according to campaigners.

Jewels of the British rock and pop industry catalogue are at risk because of outdated laws affecting copyright of sound recordings, according to campaigners.

Some of Britain’s best-loved rock ‘n’ rollers and jazzmen are heading a campaign against a law that will soon stop them receiving royalties from their old hits.

They are incensed that copyright protection for sound recordings in Europe only extends to 50 years and claim that such a law could deny them money into their old age.

The law will also potentially hand the flowering of British talent in the 1950s and 1960s to offshore companies who would have no obligation to invest in the British music industry, they have said.

Currently, performers in the UK receive payments on sound recordings for 50 years. Songwriters get royalties for life plus 70 years.

The law should give sound recordings 95 years’ protection, the performers say, as was adopted in in the US in 1998 following a successful campaign by the late Sonny Bono.

Cliff Richard is perhaps the most high-profile of the campaigners and is, along with UK recording companies’ association the BPI, part of a vigorous protest.

His first hit, 1958’s Move It, is due to fall out of copyright in a little under three years.

Other big-name supporters of the campaign include Bono of U2, Kenny Jones, who replaced Keith Moon as the drummer in The Who, Bruce Welch of the Shadows and Feargal Sharkey of The Undertones.

The say colleagues who did well in the early stages of their careers but did not stay in the public spotlight in later life are most at risk.

They claim that the only people to benefit from the current copyright laws in Europe will be people who set up businesses to market other people’s records and thereby avoid investment in sound recordings.

Early Elvis Presley recordings such as Blue Moon in Kentucky, have already entered the public domain in Europe and 60s star Johnny Hallyday, still France’s highest-earning singer, is to lose the rights to his early recordings in five years.

Hits at risk in the not-so-distant future include The Beatles’ debut single Love Me Do, released in 1962 and due to go into the public domain in 2013.

Many countries outside Europe, from Australia to Brazil, offer at least 70 years’ protection.

The campaign has been given added force by a British government review of intellectual property, which includes scrutiny of sound copyright.

A spokesman for the BPI said the law on copyright dated from 1911 and needed to be changed to take into account the explosion in the British recording industry dating from the 1950s and 1960s.

He said: “We take the view that if something as mundane as a telephone directory or a Chinese takeaway menu can have up to 150 years’ copyright protection, that is unfair, given that recordings that are of great cultural and economic importance will be rendered valueless as they go into the public domain in the near future.”

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