British Government Announces Support for Copyright Term Extension

In a move that sent shock waves around the internet, Culture secretary Andy Burnham announced that he supports extending the UK copyright term from 50 to 70 years.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It’s been a multi-year battle between the recording industry and Britain, but today, consumer rights advocates was dealt with a major blow. The report comes from Music Week which says that culture secretary Andy Burnham announced during a UK music conference that he is going to support extending copyright term from 50 years to 70 years.

From the report:

Burnham’s announcement was immediately praised by BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor. He says, “Copyright is the lifeblood of our creative economy and we are delighted that the government is recognizing this by supporting an extension of copyright term for British musicians and labels. Copyright stimulates investment in musical talent and encourages innovation. Thousands of recording artists, hundreds of music companies and all British music fans will benefit from fairer copyright term”.

British Consumer Rights Advocates at Online Rights Group translated the announcement to “Screw the evidence, says Burnham, let’s extend copyright term anyway”

They further point the finger to the copyright lobby groups with the following, “the U-turn can probably be more accurately ascribed to the intense lobbying activities of record labels and collecting societies – the bodies likely to see the most benefit from extending term – ever since Gordon Brown accepted Gowers’ recommendations in full.”

The Gowers report was released back in 2006 and explained that, through careful study and weighing all the outcomes, the major copyright industry would only receive a scarce benefit from extending the copyright term while it severely hurt everyone else involved.

We here at ZeroPaid followed the British copyright term extension carefully. Early on this year, a petition to stop copyright term extension in Europe received a huge amount of support from concerned citizens. Shortly afterwards, a British MP objected to the copyright term extension bill which would increase the term of copyright to 70 years. It was a move that was hugely popular by consumer rights activists. A few months later, a top British legal adviser agreed that extending the copyright term would be a bad idea, another victory for consumers. Still, the Open Rights Group called on as many people as possible to keep up the pressure to stop the copyright term extension movement.

In spite of the incredible effort all year, it seems that the British Minister wants to rely on what many call “voodoo economics” instead of the facts behind the case and back the copyright term extension movement. Still, the war is far from over. The Open Rights Group says, “If it turns out the UK Government are unwilling to reject the Directive [to extend the copyright term], then it will be up to the European Parliament to see sense and vote it out when they come to consider it (likely next February). Which means it’s all the more important to write to your MEP if you object to the proposal to extend copyright term.”

[Hat tip: BoingBoing]

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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