Britain's term of copyright on sound recordings will come under the microscope as part of a new and thorough review into intellectual property rights, which was launched today (Dec. 2) by Chancellor o

Britain's term of copyright on sound recordings will come under the microscope as part of a new and thorough review into intellectual property rights, which was launched today (Dec. 2) by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

Andrew Gowers, former editor of daily trade publication the Financial Times, will conduct the independent review, which is to run for the next 12 months.

Industry bodies have welcomed the U.K. Treasury's initiative. Emma Pike, CEO of authors' rights umbrella body British Music Rights, describes the review as "extraordinarily important" to the creative industries. Pike adds, "as the voice of music creators, who are currently at the sharp end of digital developments, we welcome the review and look forward to working with Mr Gowers and the Treasury over the course of the next year."

For more than a year, the European music industry has vigorously campaigned to raise awareness among policy makers and legislators to bring IP rules in-line those in other countries.

In most of the European Union, the term of copyright protection for sound recordings expires 50 years after the first release of a sound recording. A change in the duration of copyright requires a ruling from the European Commission. Industry experts believe that an extension of the terms has more chances to be passed if major EU countries such as the U.K. or France advocate in favor of the changes.

In the United States, sound recordings are protected for 95 years from the day of recording-for post-1976 recordings, coverage is artist's life plus 70 years.

Other countries with longer term of protection include Australia (70 years), Singapore (70), Mexico (75), Brazil (70), Turkey (70) and India (60).

The ruling Labour Party's manifesto in the last election included a commitment to "modernize copyright and other forms of IP so that they are appropriate for the digital age."

The review launched today intends to broadly examine how well businesses are able to negotiate the complexity and expense of the copyright and patent system, including copyright and patent-licensing arrangements, litigation and enforcement, according to the U.K. Treasury. It will also probe whether the current technical and legal IP infringement framework reflects the digital environment and whether provisions for "fair use" by citizens are reasonable.