In a verdict which was widely anticipated in the British recorded music industry, Andrew Gowers' review on intellectual property has called on decision-makers to preserve the U.K.'s current term of copyright on sound recordings.

The long-awaited document, unveiled today (Dec. 5), recommends that "the European Commission does not change the status quo and retains the 50 year term of copyright protection for sound recordings and related performers' rights."

Gowers' recommendations to the government on the duration of copyright will come as a shock, but not a surprise, to the U.K. record industry. The industry has rallied with a unified voice for an extension on the 50-year term, to bring Britain in-line with the legal framework of other markets including the United States.

News of Gowers' revelation had earlier been leaked to a British newspaper, leading to widespread condemnation from the U.K. record business.

The 146-page review also courts controversy with a recommendation to introduce a strictly limited "private copying" exception, which would allow consumers to copy their CD collections to their personal music devices without reprimand.

The British industry was swift to respond. "I would hate to get either suicidal about the review, nor is it appropriate to be positive and upbeat, because it is neither," Fran Nevrkla, CEO of British colleting society PPL, tells Billboard.biz. "What one should welcome is that the government actually commissioned someone to have an impartial, arms-length view of copyright and intellectual property rights in the 21st century."

Emma Pike, chief executive of lobby organization British Music Rights, adds, "We will be wanting to work with the various government departments that will be looking at this review, and responding to this review. We'll be wanting to work with them to build on it because the review doesn't go far enough (in supporting rights holders)."

Elsewhere in the document, Gowers sets out a strong line of countermeasures for the government, which would bolster the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

"The ideal IP system creates incentives for innovation, without unduly limiting access for consumers and follow-on innovators," comments Gowers in the document. "It must strike the right balance in a rapidly changing world so that innovators can see further by standing on the shoulders of giants. And it must take tough action against those who infringe IP rights at a cost to the UK's most creative industries."

And in a surprise move, Gowers invited consumer watchdog the Office of Fair Trading to consider conducting a market survey into the U.K. collecting societies.

The "Gowers Review of Intellectual Property" is the culmination of more than nine months' research. Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, had asked Gowers during the 2005 pre-budget report to conduct the review in response to the global changes affecting intellectual property in the digital age.

Gowers presented his independent review today as Brown announced the government's 2006 pre-budget report.

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