Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Extend the term - why?

Music Week, the house paper for the UK music industry, is running a campaign to persuade the politicians that it would be a great idea if the period of recorded copyright enjoyed by European record companies should be extended from its current 50 year period to 75 years. The argument for this being that the poor, impoverished artists won't benefit from the sweat of their talents, which instead will be greedily acquired by plunderers of catalogue. While there is an element of truth in this the reality is that for the vast majority of artists contracts that they signed with avaricious record labels back in the 50's have not been renegotiated to reflect the changing times. Most musicians and performers, like the Humphrey Lyttletons and Kenny Balls of this world, still never see a penny. Major labels, who long ago subsumed these smaller labels into their friendly clutches, plead ignorance as to the whereabouts of any royalties so that the heirs to the like of Marc Bolan have never seen any cut from huge fortunes that have been made from the man's corpse.

If Music Week had any sense at all they would be supporting the line taken by the Music Managers Forum and campaign for all copyrights to revert to the artist, or their heirs, after 50 years. This way musicians could licence their material to whomsoever they choose and they would be in a far better position to see some financial return. For the music industry, and its supporters, to claim through teary eyes that the poor musician will be robbed of their money is a bit like Fagin complaining about the state of childcare. They have exploited and robbed musicians of every ilk for so long that for many of us the fact that we might be in a position to exploit our own music and make money from it comes as a welcome vision of the future. When the industry makes 40 pence a download from iTunes and the modern artist sees 4 pence then the artists from the 50s and 60s will be lucky to see 1 pence. Campaign for an extension of copyright indeed, but at least campaign for it to go back into the hands of the creators.

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