Confused Terms…

A UK parliamentary select committee has recommended that the copyright term for recordings be extended to at least 70 years. The logic behind the ruling is that performers should have the same benefits as composers. Which makes good sense, but once again the media seems to be getting into a muddle about songwriter terms and sound recordings terms. The BBC cites Paul McCartney as one of the artists who would

continue to benefit from their early recordings throughout [his] lifetime.

He already does, and will continue to do so because he was the songwriter or co-writer on just about everything he performed and therefore gets publisher earnings. And he’ll continue to do so for all his life and then his family will for up to 70 years after his death.

The record industry has been lobbying hard for this change, but just how much of a difference would it make, and why are they pushing the issue? Principally it is to protect the revenues of the record companies that own the rights to the sound recordings. Their fear is that unscrupulous record labels will re-release unauthorised copies of other labels’ records with impunity. There is however the small issue of the publishers, who will both have to provide permission and will get paid.

So there may well be a generation of aging musicians who haven’t seen any money coming in from labels which have sat, inactive, on their catalogue for decades. Suddenly a small time label showing interest in re-releasing their material might not seem like such a bad idea to them as a retirement nest egg, even if the end product does end up as some cheapo box set in a motorway services bargain bucket….