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Veteran artists win 70-year copyright

12 September 2011, 23:22 CET

(BRUSSELS) - As Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney prove they can rock the crowds well into their golden years, the European Union is offering veteran musicians a cash windfall by extending copyright from 50 to 70 years.

The measure seeks to ensure ageing performers can survive once they've hung up their guitars in a last goodbye to the stage.

While the move may be of little interest to millionaire performers Jagger, 68, or McCartney, 69, it could be a boon to lesser-known artists, facing a loss of copyright after 50 years.

"With increasing life expectancy, the previous 50-year protection term was clearly insufficient," said Michel Barnier, the 27-nation EU's internal market commissioner.

"Despite the fact that their music and songs are still popular, today many performers are left without income when they are older," he said.

"The increase to a 70-year term means performers can still receive remuneration when their music is played once they have retired."

Opera star Placido Domingo, speaking as chairman of the international recording industry group IFPI, welcomed the new EU royalty rules.

"Established artists can benefit from their work throughout their lifetimes. This is especially important today when licensed digital services make music widely available online," he said in a statement.

The European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) countered that music fans were losing out because they will have to wait 20 more years than before for recordings to enter the public domain.

"This decision serves a select few famous older artists and will prompt more and higher licensing fees for buyers," said BEUC director general Monique Goyens.

"This will serve to line the pockets of Europe's major record companies and producers, but not the average performer who constitutes 80 percent of the sector," she said.

Without the new rules, immortal hits such as The Beatles' "She Loves You", recorded in 1963, would have left copyright protection in 2013, or the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in 2015.

Without the changes, some 7,000 performers in Britain alone would have lost all of their airplay royalties over the next 10 years, according to the European Commission.

An impact study showed that extending the term by 20 years will give average performers additional income ranging from 150 euros to 2,000 euros per year, the commission said.

"The great majority of these performers are not famous rock singers who have earned millions of pounds or euros over their career. There are thousands of anonymous session musicians, who contributed to sound recordings in the late fifties and sixties for example," the EU's executive arm said.

The commission had proposed extending the royalty rights to 95 years, in line with the United States, but EU governments decided on a 70-year period.

The new rules were adopted by the EU on Monday despite opposition from Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden.

EU states will have two years to incorporate the new rules into their national legislations.

Amendments to Directive 2006/116/EC on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights - guide

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