The Intellectual Property Office ("IPO") has launched a consultation, seeking the opinion of musicians, composers and record producers on draft legislation which is to be introduced to extend the period of copyright protection for sound recordings.
At present, UK copyright legislation protects sound recordings and performers' rights in a sound recording for a term of 50 years from the year of release. However, last year the EU approved an extension of this term from 50 to 70 years after wide-spread pressure from record companies and performers. In particular, mature pop stars such as Cliff Richard, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, who all released records in the 1960's, were concerned that their recordings would lose copyright protection and begin to enter the public domain.
Once a sound recording enters the public domain, performers and the owner of the sound recording are no longer entitled to receive royalties in relation to the sound recording itself. Royalties will, however, continue to be generated through the use of copyright works contained in a recording (i.e. the lyrics and musical score). This essentially means that the songwriters will continue to receive royalties but pure performers who have no claim to the lyrics and/or musical score will lose out.
Highlighting the perceived need for this new extension, two independent record labels released versions of The Beatles classic record "Love Me Do", originally recorded in 1962 and which fell into the public domain at the end of 2012. Released on 1 January 2013 these record companies no longer have to pay performance royalties to the band. They will, however, continue to receive royalties in relation to the use of the lyrics and musical score and any other copyright works in respect of which copyright still subsists.
The UK now has until 1 November 2013 to implement the extended term. The purpose of the IPO's consultation is to investigate how the extension will work in practice, so as to give the largest benefit for the additional 20 years. The consultation closes on 4 March 2013.