Simpsons Solicitors

European Union Extend Copyright Protection

December 1st 2011

On the 12th of September the European Parliament and Council approved the directive to extend the term of copyright for performers from 50 years to
70 years.

Previously, if a performer was either a session musician or a featured
artist on a sound recording, and was entitled to income from the PPCA (or
the Australian equivalent in the UK – the PPL), those royalties would
cease after 50 years, as would copyright in sound recordings owned or
controlled by the artist/ producer/ record company.

The EU has now extended this copyright protection period for a further 20
years, and added a number of additional measures which, according to the
EU press release, benefit performers and give them more control over
their work. These measures include: requiring record companies to pay a
20% slice of the income they earn from the extension to those performers
who sold their rights to a record label for a one-off flat fee; “a use it
or lose it” clause requiring labels to give rights in the sound recording
back to the original author if they do not market the sound recording
during the extended period; and finally, a “clean slate” provision
prohibiting producers from reducing royalties owed to featured performers
during the 20 year extension period.

This brings Europe in line with Australia, where sound recordings enjoy
70 years of copyright protection following their release. It still falls
short of the 95 years of protection enjoyed by owners of sound recordings
in the US. Opinion is divided as to whether this extension will give a
practical benefit to ageing rockers facing an income gap at the end of
their lives. Some argue that this will simply mean the major labels enjoy
income from sound recordings for longer, whilst others believe this is a
win for the recording industry at large. Either way, it’s a timely
reminder to make sure your housekeeping is in order when it comes to the
exploitation of master recordings in which you own copyright.

For those of you who are copyright owners of master recordings in Australia, this extension serves as a timely reminder to ensure your house-keeping is in order. As a copyright owner in master recordings you should join the PPCA to participate in the PPCA’s licence scheme income. Also, if you are a featured Artist on a copyright recording that has been released in Australia, you should register with the PPCA so as to access your 50% share of PPCA royalties allocated to your tracks. If you have not registered as an Artist, 100% of the PPCA royalties will go to the label (presuming you’re signed).

If you have any questions relating to your master recordings, songs or require general music law advice, contact Rob Glass at Simpsons Solicitors.

Rob Glass is a music lawyer at Simpsons Solicitors. He assists musicians working in all aspects of the record industry, from negotiating publishing and record contracts with both indie and major labels, through to settling band disputes and solving copyright cross licensing issues. He has worked with both developing and established talent from all over Australia.