The European Commission today formally proposed an extension in the term of copyright for recorded performances from 50 to 95 years, rewarding the tens of thousands of British artists and the trade bodies which have lobbied intensively for new measures.

Europe's internal market and services commissioner Charlie McCreevy stepped up as a crusader for artists' rights when he pledged in February to unanimously back industry calls for an extension in the term. At the time, he said his desire was to remove performers' status as the "poor cousins of the music business."

Today, the Irishman was in the thick of it again, helping push forward the Commission's draft proposal, a crucial component to a pairing of new initiatives adopted in the copyright field. "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," McCreevy commented today.

A raft of industry bodies applauded the EC's intention of support.

"We welcome these extremely positive developments," commented Fran Nevrkla, chairman and CEO of rights organizations PPL & VPL, and a tireless campaigner for an extension in the term. "The issue of copyright term extension is long overdue but finally the draft proposals recognize the critical and hitherto missing elements of natural justice and fairness both for performers as well as the companies who invest in the talent."

In a statement issued jointly by the IFPI and European independent companies' trade body Impala said it was "gratified that the Commission has moved to close this copyright gap, especially at a time when early recordings can win new audiences and enjoy a second lease of life on the Internet." But in a word of warning, the IFPI/Impala communiqué noted, "The Commission proposal needs further work if it is to be effective."

In a parallel development, the Commission has also adopted a Green Paper on copyright in the knowledge economy, with which Brussels intends to foster a structured debate on the long-term future of copyright policy.

The Green Paper, notes Nevrkla, "acknowledges that in a fast changing world technology will often outpace legislation but, again, the principle of fair compensation for performers and record companies is of paramount importance and must be recognized."