Brits: sign the petition, save UK copyright

Attention Britons! Although the preliminary indications are good that UK copyright on records won't be extended to 95 years, the fight isn't over yet.

A leaked report from the Gowers Review -- an expert body that is making recommendations on new UK copyright -- suggests that Gowers will reject the idea that records produced in the past should get a fresh 45 years tacked onto their monopolies, a massive picking of the public pocket. Britain offered record labels a bargain: press a record, get 50 years of copyright. Now the labels are coming back and asking for nearly double that, and not just for the records they make tomorrow, but for the records they made yesterday, too.

There's no way the labels will take this lying down. We must be sure that our MPs are aware that the public is watching this issue and will call its representatives to account if they cave into a few giant corporations' greed.

The Open Rights Group has led the charge on this and maintains a public petition to Tessa Jowell, the minister who controls copyright issues in Parliament. If you're a Briton who wants to keep the UK from repeating America's mistakes, sign on now -- and tell your friends to sign on, too.

The music industry says that they are simply looking after musicians, yet the copyright in many of these recordings is not held by the musician, but by the label. Record labels aren’t a charity; they aren’t giving anything to musicians that isn’t already in their contract. Instead, they are driven by a desire to retain control over a small number of profitable recordings in order to maximise profits.

Term extension is not just about the ulterior motives of a powerful industry group. When artists produced works 50 years ago, they did so knowing exactly how many years of exclusive rights they would gain. And they signed those rights away to record labels knowing that they would expire in 50 years.

Copyright has always been a bargain between the interests of the rights holder and the interests of the public. A retroactive extension of the term would do nothing more than provide a windfall to the rightsholders - not necessarily the musicians, remember - and would deny the public the benefit of their side of that bargain.

If you decide to extend copyright on existing recordings, you will destroy our musical and sound recording heritage. If you extend copyright on new recordings, you will deny our children access to that heritage, but without having any significant positive impact on artists who are recording today.