European Anti-Copyright Extension Petition Gathers Momentum

On February 29th, the EFF and Open Rights Group started a petition against the proposal to extend copyright. Now, the number of signatures has risen to nearly 7,000.

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

The Sound Copyright website says the following:

Copyright is a bargain. In exchange for their investment in creating and distributing sound recordings to the public, copyright holders are granted a limited monopoly during which are allowed to control the use of those recordings. This includes the right to pursue anyone who uses their recordings without permission. But when this time is up, these works join Goethe, Hugo and Shakespeare in the proper place for all human culture — the public domain. In practice, because of repeated term extensions and the relatively short time in which sound recording techniques have been available, there are no public domain sound recordings.

“This situation is about to change, as tracks from the first golden age of recorded sound reach the end of their copyright term. The public domain is about to benefit from its half of this bargain. Seminal soul, reggae, and rock and roll recordings will soon be freed from legal restrictions, allowing anyone (including the performers themselves and their heirs) to preserve, reissue, and remix them.

It goes on to explain their cause:

Major record labels want to keep control of sound recordings well beyond the current 50 year term so that they can continue to make marginal profits from the few recordings that are still commercially viable half a century after they were laid down. Yet if the balance of copyright tips in their favour, it will damage the music industry as a whole, and also individual artists, libraries, academics, businesses and the public.

The labels lobby for change, but have yet to publicly present any compelling economic evidence to support their case. What evidence does exist shows clearly that extending term will discourage innovation, stunt the reissues market, and irrevocably damage future artists’ and the general public’s access to their cultural heritage.

The Open Rights Group, one of the major forces behind the petition also says, “Back in 2006, over 1,000 people signed ORG’s petition asking the UK government to reject term extension – and it worked. We want ten times that many to sign this new Europe-wide petition.”

They may very well get what they are wanting. As of today, the petition has gotten nearly 7,000 signatures. That’s roughly 1,000 signatures per day since the day the petition was posted. The petition is very straightforward and to the point. It says:

The following individuals state their opposition to a copyright term extension for sound recordings.

We ask the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers to ensure that policy in this area reflects all concerned stakeholders, including consumer and public interest organisations, and not just the commercial rights-holders who advocate for extended copyright term.

The petition was sparked by a report that the European Commission is proposing that copyright be extended from 50 years, as it is currently now, to 95 years. The EFF, another major force behind the petition says, “while the record labels support the government stretching their contracts far into the future, the facts stand against term extension. Impartial studies, copyright scholars, and some of the world’s most respected economists all say that longer terms mean little new wealth for performers, yet create all the disadvantages of a creative world depleted of its valuable long-promised public domain.”

Link to the petition.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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