The European Union's internal market commissioner has given his unequivocal support to industry demands for an extension for the term of copyright on sound recordings.

Commissioner Charlie McCreevy said today he intends to propose an extension of the current 50-year term of protection to 95 years, a move intended to preserve the livelihoods of performers.

"I strongly believe that copyright protection for Europe's performers represents a moral right to control the use of their work and earn a living from their performances," comments McCreevy in a statement, issued today.

His stance flies in the face of the British government-backed Gowers Review on intellectual property, which recommended that the 50-year term be retained. The British government last July ignored the music industry's long-running campaign to extend the term of copyright when it sided with the Gowers study.

"I have not seen a convincing reason why a composer of music should benefit from a term of copyright which extends to the composer's life and 70 years beyond," argued McCreevy today, "while the performer should only enjoy 50 years, often not even covering his lifetime. It is the performer who gives life to the composition and while most of us have no idea who wrote our favourite song - we can usually name the performer."

The development was warmly welcomed by sections of the music industry. "We applaud Commissioner McCreevy for the vision he has shown in keeping creativity right at the centre of the European economy," commented IFPI chairman/CEO John Kennedy.

"Europe's artists have produced a wealth of glories for all of us to enjoy," comments Fran Nevrkla, chairman and CEO of PPL. "By closing this copyright gap, the Commission recognises the unique contribution of tens of thousands of musicians and provides a boost for Europe's future creativity and international standing. We welcome this announcement."

EMI Chairman Guy Hands added, "We welcome today's proposals by Commissioner McCreevy. If implemented, these measures are excellent news for thousands of artists, many of whom rely on income from sound recordings for their long term financial security."

The Commissioner also recommended the introduction of a "use it or lose it" provision, which would enable a performer to change camps if a record company was unwilling to re-release a performance during the extended term.

McCreevy reckons his proposal to extend the term should be ready for adoption by the European Commission -- the European Union's executive arm -- before the summer break of 2008.