While this blog tends to focus on contract issues in the United States, some interesting changes took place recently to the European Union’s copyright law. A vote by the European Union on September 12 extended royalty protection for music performers and producers from 50 to 70 years. This change comes just as many hits generating in Europe in the 1960s would soon fall out of copyright protection for performers.
Composers, however, will not see much difference unless they were also the performers. EU copyright already grants composers copyright for their lifetime plus 70 years, just as it is here in the U.S. One of the main differences is that this stipulation also covers music producers.
In this case, the term “music producer” refers to record companies that own the sound recording of a song or an album. Therefore, while the copyright will remain with the songs composer, of course, the sound recording will continue to be owned by the record company; and the record company can promote and sell the product as they see fit.
This shows a wide gap between the U.S. copyright laws, which grants artists “termination rights” to regain control of their sound recordings from record companies after 35 years. The new decision by the EU will grant record companies longer control over sound recordings.
Still, many artists are celebrating this decision, as the sound recordings would not have reverted to them anyway, but instead would’ve become public domain. The Beatles are one of the main illustrations of this fight as they released first single “Love Me Do” 49 years ago in 1962.
Additionally, the term “performer” in this contract also refers to session musicians, and sets up a fund for session musicians to receive record company revenue during this extended period. Any un-recouped advances against a particular recording are wiped clean during the extended period, as well.
The full ramifications of this act remain to be seen, but for now there are happy artists publicly celebrating while record labels seem to be smiling behind the scenes.