Some weeks ago I collected the signatures of 40 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) to try to get a renewed referral of the Parliament’s earlier decision to extend copyright on music recordings from 50 to 70 years. The goal is to give the Parliament a chance to reverse its decision, and not support the extension.
Right now, there is a legalistic struggle going on over the question as to whether this request is admissible or not according to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. The legal experts in the Green Group are handling the matter, and I am very grateful for this, since they are in a much better position to sort out the intricacies of the Rules of Procedure in the Parliament than I am.
In the meanwhile, we can look at the substance of the issue once more.
Last week I wrote about the Hargreaves Review, which is an independent evaluation of intellectual property rights policies that the UK government has commissioned.
In Chapter 2, the Review cites Copyright Term Extension as an obvious example of IPR policy that is inconsistent with the economic evidence:
Copyright Term Extension Economic evidence is clear that the likely deadweight loss to the economy exceeds any additional incentivising effect which might result from the extension of copyright term beyond its present levels. This is doubly clear for retrospective extension to copyright term, given the impossibility of incentivising the creation of already existing works, or work from artists already dead.
Despite this, there are frequent proposals to increase term, such as the current proposal to extend protection for sound recordings in Europe from 50 to 70 or even 95 years. The UK Government assessment found it to be economically detrimental. An international study found term extension to have no impact on output.
 Handke C, 2010, The Economics of Copyright and Digitisation: A Report on the Literature and the Need for Further Research, Report for the UK Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy http://www.ipo.gov.uk/ipresearcheconomics-201005.pdf
 IPO, 7 Jan 2010, Impact Assessment of: Proposed Directive to extend the term of copyright protection for performers and sound recordings
 Png I P L and Qiu-hong W, 2009, Copyright Law and the Supply of Creative Work: Evidence from the Movies, Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues
In Chapter 10 of the Review, it elaborates:
10.12 A prominent and persistent example of the lobbying problem concerns the duration of copyright protection, which has been periodically extended in recent decades. In spite of clear evidence that this cannot be justified in terms of the core IP argument that copyright exists to provide economic incentives to creators to produce new works. As has been noted by a number of commentators, no one has yet discovered a mechanism for incentivising the deceased.
10.13 The most recent example of such extensions involved a UK decision to support a still incomplete EU process to extend the rights of owners of sound recordings from 50 years to 70 years. Such an extension was opposed by the Gowers Review and by published studies commissioned by the European Commission. A decision in favour of the change was, nonetheless, announced by the Secretary of State for Culture, Andy Burnham, in December 2008. The Government’s own economic impact assessment subsequently estimated that extension would cost the UK economy up to £100m over the extended term.
One justification for extension might be that Ministers wished to afford extended copyright as a mark of respect and gratitude to artists and their families – a perfectly legitimate argument, though one that ignores the fact that very often artists’ rights are owned by corporations. Independent research commissioned for the Gowers Review suggested that the benefits to individual artists would be highly skewed to a relatively small number of performers.
 Kay J, March 2011, The difficult balance of intellectual property, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/98c17366-54c2-11e0-b1ed-00144feab49a.html#axzz1HPV1KQTw
 Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, 2006, Review of the Economic Evidence Relating to an Extension of the Term of Copyright in Sound Recordings, University of Cambridge
On this issue, I agree with the Hargreaves Review completely. Extending the copyright term, and even doing it retroactively, is just madness.
It will be interesting to see what the current UK government will do in the EU Council of Ministers when the issue comes up there.