The German Federal Music Industry Association (BVMI) in Berlin has welcomed a ruling issued by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which confirmed that older recordings are also protected by copyright law throughout Europe if protection is afforded in at least one member state under local legislation.

Companies based in non-EU countries can also rely on this protection. "The ECJ judgment clarifies the situation with respect to a very important question and also confirms that old records produced from 1958 up to and including 1965 are also protected. The decision has important ramifications going beyond the protection of record manufacturers," said Stefan Michalk, managing director of the BVMI.

The ruling was in response to an action brought by Sony Music Entertainment in Munich against the German company Falcon Neue Medien Vertrieb in Wittenburg, which had sold CDs containing old tracks recorded by Bob Dylan.

Falcon Neue Medien had assumed that records produced before 1965 were no longer subject to copyright in Germany. However, the European Court of Justice accepted the arguments of Sony Music Entertainment and ruled that the copyright protection prevailing in the United Kingdom – 50 years - also applied to Germany.

The 2006 Copyright Duration Directive provides for a copyright period of 50 years for all titles that were subject to copyright protection in at least one E.U. country on July 1, 1995. According to the ECJ, companies domiciled in non-EU countries can also rely on this protection.

Falcon Neue Medien could not be reached. Sony Music Entertainment declined to comment.