Music copyright extension event, London Nov 13

The UK Open Rights Group is throwing an all-evening symposium-with-DJs night on November 13th to explore the question of copyright term extensions in the UK. This is the white-hot copyright issue of the day in Britain, since this year marks the year that a ton of still-popular music (early Elvis recordings, for one) will enter the British public domain. The British record companies are urging the UK government to add another 45 years to all the old music copyrights, even though practically every 50-year-old recording is out of print, languishing in obscurity because its "owners" don't care enough about it to bring it back.

The US has led the world is brainless copyright extensions that doom nearly all creativity to be forgotten by history in order to preserve a few marginally profitable works. Will the UK let the US drag it along in another folly, or will it stand up for the right to learn from America's mistakes and go a better way?

The evening features a presentation from copyright scholar Jonathan Zittrain, Chair in Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University; a panel moderated by John Howkins of the RSA and Adelphi Charter, and a DJ set mixed from public domain, pre-1955 music.

Should the term of copyright protection on sound recordings stay at 50
years or be extended?

This question has been hanging in the air for the last couple of
years, with the music industry lobbying government for an extension on
the grounds that the royalties they earn from old recordings are
essential to bringing new acts to the stage and supporting ageing
musicians. They believe that copyright term on sound recordings should
be the same length as the copyright in the composition, which
currently stands at life plus 70 years.

On the other hand, copyright reformers argue that term should remain
the same in order to protect the public domain and to free the huge
number of old recordings which are no longer commercially viable and
therefore not being released by the record labels. They also argue
that there is a greater economic benefit to allowing works to pass
into the public domain after 50 years so that new works can be made
from them and new businesses that specialise in niche markets can

Nov 13, 2006

6:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London, WC1
United Kingdom


(Disclosure: I am a co-founder and proud advisory-board member for the Open Rights Group)