2024-02-24 15:37:44
Keeping time limits on copyright could open the way for a new wave of creativity economics/legislation/news


In the midst of an explosion in digital music sales, and a flourishing new music scene, industry executives are lobbying the UK government to extend protection for sound recordings from 50 years to 95.

This, they say, would protect existing revenue streams that bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones provide.

The argument for the extension of copyright is often presented as win-win situation for all. If we do not extend copyright, then the Beatles’ sound recordings could be packaged and released by anybody, and the recording artists would not receive any money from future sales of the songs they recorded and made popular.

The debate surrounding whether it is right or wrong to increase copyright term is often presented as a choice between all or nothing: either continue to protect the Beatles’ songs or give them away for nothing, and allow artists to be ripped off and the music industry to suffer.

But this false polarisation is not very helpful. The majority of works produced in the 50s and 60s are no longer of any commercial value. Many are out of circulation and unavailable to would be listeners.

Opportunities offered by the internet and digital distribution could allow niche providers to re-package and re-distribute old recordings, bringing previously ‘lost’ creative content to contemporary ears.

If you walk into a bookshop you can buy a copy of Dickens’ Bleak House, or Austen’s Pride and Prejudice for about £1.50. The copyright in these works has long expired so different publishers can compete to offer them at lower prices. Consumers have benefited from the works being out of protection.

So perhaps the expiration of copyright in sound recordings for the Beatles should not be seen as the end of music. Instead it could be the end of an era, perhaps.

It arrives at the start of new careers for new artists producing new and exciting music.

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