In somewhat of a blow to the expansion of the public domain, the European Union has recently announced plans to extend copyrights
for music recordings, currently set to expire after 50 years, to 95 years. While the proposal must still gain approval from the European Parliament and individual governments, the new move has stirred up a lively debate between those in favor of protecting artists' rights and those hoping to eliminate the royalties fees for consumers.
The EU decision comes at a turning point for the forefathers of rock and roll, who are reaching old age and would otherwise be losing the rights to their music just as they may be retiring. The music of the Beatles
, for example, would lose its copyright in 2013. However, supporters of the extension argue that the musicians who are truly in need of the royalties revenue in their old age are those who were not in the limelight, such as session musicians or engineers. Charlie McCreevy
of the European Commission explains:
"A 95-year term would bridge the income gap that performers face when they turn 70, just as their early performances recorded in their 20s would lose protection... the announcement focuses on the 'invisible' members of our industry - the musicians, engineers and session players whose names are hidden away in the liner notes and credits. "
The new law's detractors, however, maintain that the majority of the royalties would continue to end up in the pockets of the record labels rather than the artists. Many were simply looking forward to the day the pop oldies enter the public domain, and bemoan the possibility that the expenses will be passed on to the listeners.