Copyright extension back on Commons' agenda

A parliamentary motion calling for an extension to the term of copyright has been signed by 75 MPs. The reopening of the debate comes despite The Treasury's backing for the recent recommendation not to extend copyright made by Andrew Gowers.

Labour MP Michael Connarty has proposed the motion, which claims that the 50 year cut-off is unfair.

He proposes "that this House notes that 50 years ago Lonnie Donegan's Cumberland Gap was No. 1 in the charts for five weeks; is concerned that due to the present law governing payments for use of audio recordings this track will go out of copyright at the end of 2007 and that the family of Lonnie Donegan, who would have been 76 on 29th April, and the other performers will no longer receive any royalties, nor have any say in how this recording is used".

The copyright in sound recordings lasts for 50 years, whereas protection for songwriters and other writers as well as artists lasts for the lifetime of the artist plus 70 years.

Connarty's motion "asks the Government to make representations to the European Commission to look at this inequity".

The Treasury has backed Andrew Gowers' report into intellectual property and its recommendation that the copyright term for sound recordings stay as it is.

Gowers was employed by the Treasury to conduct a report on the state of intellectual property law. One of the most contentious issues was that of copyright extension, and the government came under intense lobbying pressure from the entertainment industry, and music business figures in particular.

But Gowers exclusively revealed to OUT-LAW Radio last month that, far from leaning towards extension, he almost recommended shortening the term of copyright.

"I could have made a case for reducing it based on the economic arguments," he said. "We certainly considered it, and if you look at the report that came from the academics that we commissioned to examine the arguments and examine the evidence they also argued very robustly that 50 years could be arguably more than enough."

"In the end we took the politically prudent course. To be honest, reducing it in any case would be a very big international debate. It would stand very little chance of making headway in Europe," said Gowers, who is a former Financial Times editor.

Connarty's proposal is an early day motion (EDM). EDMs are rarely given parliamentary time, but have in the past proved the starting point for successful proposals.