What libraries (and those on our side of the copyright issue) need is their
own counterpart to Cliff Richard: a famous musician willing to speak out
against these laws. Not unlike that group of Canadian musicians mentioned
here not long ago.
--On Sunday, May 14, 2006 4:02 PM -0400 Tim Brooks <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The British government is being heavily lobbied by the recording
> companies to extend the copyright term for recordings there from the
> present 50 years to as much as 95, and make it retroactive. That would
> pretty much shut down the UK's historic reissue industry. There have
> been a number of pro and con letters in the British papers. Cliff
> Richard (the UK's Sonny Bono?) has been making the rounds on behalf of
> the record companies urging extension, so he can keep getting royalties
> from his 1950s hits.
> ARSC member David Patmore was asked by CHARM, a consortium of English
> universities interested in record preservation and study, to write a
> position paper on the subject for submission to Andrew Gowers, who is
> studying the matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. After
> supplying David with some information, I decided to write a letter
> myself and, to my surprise, the Times of London printed it last
> Thursday(abridged), with mention of ARSC. See the link below.
> Following that is the full letter as submitted.
> I encourage others on the list to get involved before this is decided!
> Here are some addresses David supplied me:
> [log in to unmask]
> [log in to unmask] (The Financial Times)
> [log in to unmask]
> letters@ independent.co.uk
> They all ask for any correspondence to be accompanied by the sender's
> name, postal address and daytime telephone number.
> Tim Brooks
> Copyright & Fair Use Committee
> (my thanks to committee member Dick Spottswood for his input.)
> In a message dated 5/11/2006 5:09:39 AM Eastern Standard Time,
> [log in to unmask] writes:
> Hi Tim - the letter is in today's issue of The Times as a leading item on
> the letters page, p. 18.
> It reads very powerfully - the only cut has been the names of the record
> It's also on the web at
> I have two copies of this issue and will bring them to Seattle - look
> forward to seeing you there.
> Very best wishes and many thanks again for your greatly valued support -
> To the Editor:
> As Britons consider the appeals of the large record companies to lengthen
> the copyright term for recordings from its present 50 years to as much
> as 95, I hope they will consider?and learn about?the disastrous cultural
> consequences such long periods of exclusivity have had in the United
> States. This matter is currently under review by Mr. Andrew Gowers for
> the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
> According to a recent study rights holders in the U.S. have made
> available only 10% of the most historic pre-1955 recordings they
> control, either themselves or by licensing to others. Moreover this
> figure is heavily weighted toward more recent periods (the 1940s and
> 1950s); as one goes further back the percentage dwindles to almost
> nothing. What the record companies really want is the small fraction of
> older recordings that can still make them lots of money. The rest they
> Ethnic and minority musics are particularly hard hit, since they are not
> big money makers. According to the study most of the historic blues
> recordings available in the U.S. came from overseas labels (including
> the U.K.) or illegal issues, not the "rights holders." While doing
> research for a book on the earliest (pre-1920) black recording artists I
> was startled to learn than most of those recordings are still controlled
> by modern corporations, who have made available fewer than one percent
> of them. The book, appropriately, is called Lost Sounds.
> Britain is home to some of the best and most respected historic reissue
> labels in the world, including Document and Pearl. They are where most
> Americans hear their own recorded history, since it is buried by
> copyright law in their own country. This industry will be shut down, or
> severely curtailed, if the major labels get their way, and don't count
> on the majors to take their place.
> Sir Cliff Richard says it is "only fair" that he should reap royalties
> from his earliest recordings for a century or so. But most artists,
> especially early ones, had to sign away their rights just to get
> recorded. Long copyright terms mainly benefit recording companies, not
> long-ago artists or their heirs. And ultimately the ability to live off
> the past will make British companies less, not more, competitive. Why
> take the risks needed to develop the next Beatles when you can milk the
> old ones indefinitely?
> Copyright is supposed to balance the rights of creators with those of
> history and society. In recent years there has been a backlash against
> overly long copyright terms in the U.S., as the public realizes it was
> sold out for the special interests. I hope the British public does not
> allow itself to be similarly swindled.
> Tim Brooks
> Chair, Copyright & Fair Use Committee, Association for Recorded Sound
> Greenwich, CT USA