The U.K. government has less than two months to respond on high-level recommendations for an extension to the term of copyright on sound recordings.
House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman John Whittingdale explains that the clock is ticking on a government response to its intellectual property report, issued yesterday.
“It has to be presented in parliament within 60 days,” Whittingdale, MP for Maldon and East Chelmsford, tells Billboard.biz. “It is the requirement of the government to respond to any select media report. They have to publish a formal response to each of our recommendations. But all they are required to do is respond. They could just say well we’re not persuaded or we don’t agree.”
The committee’s long-awaited report on IP called for the copyright term to be extended to “at least 70 years.” The current term is 50 years.
Although admitting “possibly nothing” would happen, Whittingdale has vowed to fight on for British artists’ rights. “Part of the problem, of course, is that it’s not something in the gift of the U.K. Government. It’s a European matter. And there are two hurdles,” he explains. “First of all we have to persuade the U.K. government to do it. And if we manage to do that, the U.K. government has to persuade the European Commission, and that’s another challenge. So this is a long haul.”
The U.K. music industry widely welcomed the committee document, after it received a black eye from the Treasury-commissioned Gowers Review of intellectual property, issued last December.
Gowers’ report recommended that the European Commission should not change the status quo, and that Britain ought to retain the current 50-year-term.
“I, and a lot of other people in the industry, were very disappointed with this aspect of Andrew Gowers report,” Whittingdale notes. “As I said in the report, he missed the point, really. Whether or not there is huge economic benefit from extending the term of copyright is not really the main question. The point is whether or not artists are entitled to go on receiving recognition of their creative input for as long as they are alive.”
Immediately following the publication of the select committee’s document, a raft of industry bodies — including the IFPI, BPI, PPL and BMR — came out in support. “I think the industry was very disappointed by Gowers, and they felt their campaign came to nothing,” he says. “So I think this gives them some heart and persuades them that there is a large body of support in parliament for a change and they will therefore renew their efforts. And I hope the ministers will be sympathetic.”
The committee’s far-ranging report, entitled “New media and the creative industries,” covered a raft of related IP issues. Among its other recommendations, the publication called for new measures to help tackle piracy, urged ISPs and Internet search-based businesses to do more to discourage piracy, and suggested that the Government should draw up a new exemption permitting copying within domestic premises for domestic use.