ScriptumLibre opposes neighboring rights term extension
With great concern ScriptumLibre learned about the European Commission's proposal to extend neighboring rights from 50 to 95 years after the date of performance.
Such extensions have been proposed before. Recently a similar proposal has been rejected by the European parliament as unnecessary and not serving any public purpose, such as the promotion of culture and arts. They merely stem from rent-seeking behaviour from a small group of rights-holders who wish to maintain a steady stream of royalties on works nearing the end of their current term. No sound economical benefit of such an extension has been demonstrated. The emotional plea, supported by a number of well known artists also is misleading, as all these artists have already been able to receive royalties on their performances for fifty years, and often continue to control the dissemination of their work through copyrights on the underlying works such as song lyrics.
The argument that terms for neighbouring rights need to be extended to match longer copyrights, and then proposing a term still different from copyrights in the EU but matching similar rights terms in the US makes little sense. It actually causes us to fear that this may lead to cases of neighbouring rights exceeding copyrights terms, causing a further escalation in copyright extensions.
Outside the small but influential circle of large corporate rights-holders and their agents, there is a growing consensus that current copyrights terms are far too extensive, and as a result are obstructing, rather than promoting a diverse and vibrant creative culture. In particular artists themselves suffer from the growing burden to clear copyrights in an environment where rights are continuously expanded. Another cause for grave concern is the fact that many works have been so long out of circulation before their copyrights expire that by the time they enter the public domain no copies of that particular work are left to actually enter the public domain. It is time to reverse this worrisome trend.
This particular proposal will restrict access to all performances since the onset of the first world war, often recorded on obsolete and fragile media. Extended neighboring rights will seriously hinder their preservation. Due to technological advances, most of these recordings have limited commercial value. However, they are an irreplaceable part of our cultural heritage, and are important for research. To purposely block the conservation of these historical works is little short of wanton destruction of cultural heritage.
The current copyright regime has turned into a private tax on culture, which restricts the access of citizens to cultural heritage, and even blocks its preservation. An increasingly small fraction of these taxes actually end up with artists and authors.
We strongly urge the European Commission and the European Parliament to refrain from adding further undue burdens on our culture.
Board Member, ScriptumLibre
Volunteer, Project Gutenberg
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ScriptumLibre is the international name of Vrijschrift.
ScriptumLibre creates awareness about the economic and social meaning of free knowledge and culture for our society. ScriptumLibre fulfills both a protecting and promoting role. Internationally we work together with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, the Free Software Foundation Europe, Project Gutenberg and a lot of other organizations.
Other Responses to this Proposal
Martin Kretschmer in a letter to the Financial Times; a highly critical response.
Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm on nu.nl; a critical reaction (in Dutch).