The Digital Media Project  
Source L. Chiariglione
Title Comments on "Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package" No. 080811chiariglione01

 

Comments on "Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package"

On 16/07/2008 The European Commission has published Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/1156&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en).

Below are my comments (in blue).


The extended term would benefit performers who could continue earning money over an additional period. A 95-year term would bridge the income gap that performers face when they turn 70, just as their early performances recorded in their 20s would lose protection.

I have two sorts of comments to this text.

The first is that, while, granting monopoly rights to certain classes of proprietors is within the purview of public authorities, the actual terms of those rights have to be definined as a balance between the opposing interests of proprietors and the general public.

Now, I am sure that in the past giving artists the means to have a decent life thanks to the income from royalties of their works was the right thing to do (ironically, though, the duration in those dark ages was much shorter than today’s). I would dispute, however, that in the 21st century this is still the only way to go. In many countries anybody conducting an activity is obliged to pay for a public or private pension. In case there is no such legal obligation, there are so many financial vehicles nowadays that a cautious artist can invest for a dignified old age.

So the argument of the pennyless artist at the sunset of his career no longer holds.

The second comment is that, even accepting the logic of the proposed directive (which I reject), extending the 50-year period will continue to support the old artist at the age of 75 for works produced at the age of 25, but extending it to 95 years will mean that the artist will enjoy those royalties royalties until the artist is 120, not to mention the works created at the age of 55 whose royalties will be enjoyed until the artist is 150…

I suppose that there must be something wrong in the numbers.

Now I know that the stated reason is to align it to the duration of copyright. But it is not article of faith that alignment should be made to the longest period.

They will continue to be eligible for broadcast remuneration, remuneration for performances in public places, such as bars and discotheques, and compensation payments for private copying of their performances.

The interesting point of this list of likely revenue sources is that the most recent technology needed to support the stated revenues is 100 year old and that there is no mention of “digital music”. An oversight?

The extended term would also benefit the record producers. It would generate additional revenue from the sale of records in shops and on the Internet. This should allow producers to adapt to the rapidly changing business environment which is characterised by a fast decline in physical sales (- 30% over the past five yeas) and the comparatively slow growth of online sales revenue.

The first text quoted has at least the merit of appealing to the good heart of citizens who are asked to pay longer for the same thing but at least, quoting from the same text

I am committed to concentrate all necessary efforts to ensure that performers have a decent income and that there will be a European-based music industry in the years to come," the Commissioner continued specifically in relation to the term proposal.

Here the proposed directive is simply asking 500 million European citizens to transfer money from their pockets to record producers’ pockets for 45 more years while they are “adapting to the rapidly changing business environment”.

The issue of “the comparatively slow growth of online sales revenue” is well known and the DMP has more than once made specific – and now even practically implementable – proposals to solve this and other issues arising from the dematerialisation of content. As a minimum I request that first serious attempts are made at solving “the comparatively slow growth of online sales revenue” before governments put once more their hands in citizens’ pockets.

In parallel, the Commission also adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The consultation document focuses on topics that appear relevant for the development of a modern economy, driven by the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information.

I have not had the time yet to read the Green Paper. However, I find it remarkable that it addresses the issues of “Copyright in the Knowledge Economy”, driven by “the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information” while the reasons for extending the performers’ copyright to 95 years is

… to be eligible for broadcast remuneration, remuneration for performances in public places, such as bars and discotheques, and compensation payments for private copying of their performances.