British singer Billy Bragg blasted Wednesday a proposed European Union law to nearly double music copyright to 95 years, saying it would give a huge windfall to major recording labels.
The European Parliament will vote Thursday on extending royalties for performers beyond the current 50-year limit, which would bring the EU in line with the United States.
EU governments must approve the rules before they become final.
Bragg said he didn’t oppose longer copyrights but the EU plan “simply perpetuates recording contracts that were signed in the last 50 years,” taking no account of the way the Internet is changing the recording industry.
He said these contracts gave artists a cut of 8 percent to 15 percent of the wholesale price of a record, which reflected the high costs – up to 65 percent – that labels paid to physically make and transport records.
“Now that they no longer have to do that, that money will go straight into their bottom line,” he said. “This legislation offers the multinational record corporations a potential windfall of the size of the invention of the CD” when fans bought a second copy of albums they already owned on vinyl or cassette.
Instead, he called on EU lawmakers to vote for a Green Party amendment that would, after the initial 50 years, grant copyright to a national collecting society to share among artists and performers.
The EU rules would not change copyright protection for most European composers and lyricists, who currently receive lifetime copyright protection that is passed on to their descendants for another 70 years.
Bragg also said copyright laws needed to focus on commercial use instead of crackdowns on people swapping music with friends or kids using a song in a school play.
“We are against the idea of criminalizing music fans,” he said.
He said the recording industry needed to find new ways to make money out of free music “because they’re ain’t no way we’re going to stop it.” He notes that commercial radio has been able to generate advertising income out of playing music for free.