Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Small copyright puzzle...

I'm a bit puzzled by an article on the BBC website about copyright terms in the UK for recorded music that seems to claim that the day after the copyright term expires, the people who made the music will no longer be paid for it.

Music journalist Neil McCormack told BBC Radio Five Live that this outcome would be a blow to the industry. "This was set before the advent, the big boom, of rock 'n' roll - the boom in popular culture which has led to a whole vast number of people making their living from these royalties.

"You can make a record in 1955 and have been getting royalties," he said. "Suddenly they're gone."

...but if you were getting royalties from a record you made you would, I assume, still be getting money from records sold through that record deal. The difference is that other people could now also bring out or use the material without paying a licensing fee to the record company who wouldn't pay you.

So if the Beatles material is going to wander into the public domain in the UK in 5 years, as the article says, someone could put out a CD in the UK containing 1961 Beatles songs. And a few years after that they couldn't pass off their CD of 1963 Beatles songs as being "Please Please Me", or use the photographs or packaging of the original LP. While EMI could put out a set of either cheap Beatles records, or of added value reissues of Beatles records, which would still make sure that the surviving Beatles would still get paid by EMI... wouldn't it?