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European Copyright far too short!23 April 2003
Great transcript from BBC Radio's Today program on how EMI is suffering due to the 'short' 50 year length of European copyright protection - One sided and obviously so.
Thanks to the guys at BEMLI for this.
The BBC Promotes Extension of Copyright
On the 26th February 2003 the BBC's Today Programme broadcast the following
John Humphries [programme presenter / anchor] One of the worlds biggest
record producers is bracing itself for quite a blow to one of its great
In Europe copyright protection only extends for fifty years after that
anyone can take a recording, churn it out, sell it; not a penny goes to the
original maker. And this year one of the great recordings comes out of
copyright because in 1953, fifty years ago, EMI went to Las Scala, Milan and
recorded Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi in Tosca.
Now the recording is about to be free to anyone.
Someone who takes a great interest in these matters is our North America
business correspndent Stephen Evans.
Stephen Evans: There's a good argument to be made that the greatest male
singer of all time was Tito Gobbi and the greatest female singer Maria
Callas and that the greatest opera recording was made by EMI when the two
sang together in 1953.
[recording of opera plays]
That Tosca is now one of the jewels in EMI's treasury. Under European
coyright law, though, its a jewel that's about to become legally available
to any company with the means to burn and sell a CD.
In Europe, unlike most of the rest of the world, companies only have their
recordings protected from copiers for fifty years. Richard Littleton - Head
of EMI Classics says many great recordings from the early 50's, the golden
age of recording, are about to be made free to all comers
Richard Littleton (EMI): "Of course we're conscious of the injustice.
Because we have these great historical recordings of the past we're able to
take a long term view and to record contemporary artists, whose recordings
may not recoup for 15, 20, 25 years. To record an opera today costs
anything up to £600,000, nearly a million dollars."
SE: In the United States recordings are protected for 95 years. But,
according to Robert Penccino (sp?), one of the country's leading copyright
lawyers, the internet means that what's free in Europe becomes free
Robert Penccino: "If something is in the public domain in the UK then it
would be available to be put on the internet in the UK. And while, perhaps,
the internet distribution would be intended for UK residences - those
materials would become freely available to folks in the U.S.
SE: Which means that the American record companies are now worried about a
flood of great European recordings turned out super cheap and imported to
The States. The European companies want the same 95 year protection on
their own side of the Atlantic. So they're lobbying the European Commission
to lengthen copyright protection to match that in the U.S.
Francis Moore is a director of the European Industry's lobbying body in
Francis Moore: "We're so snobby in Europe about culture; we often refer to
European culture as 'culture' and we refer to American culture as
'entertainment'. But what a great irony that the Americans are protecting
their own music for 45 years longer than we protect it ourselves."
SE: The mid 50's saw the advent of stereo and the explosion of recorded
music, Richard Littleton of EMI...
RL (EMI): It *is* damaging; as time passes some of the more notable pop
recordings will also begin to fall into the public domain, The Beatles...
[Beatles: "The best things in life are free / But You can them for the birds
and bees / Give me money (that's what I want) / That's what I want (that's
what I want)]
SE: So in the coming years, more and more marvellous recordings made by
established companies will be there to be copied, sold by anyone with the
modest means to do so. It means very low prices in the near term - but the
question is: Why should companies invest big money now to record the
classics of tomorrow if they *can't keep the profits they make*.
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