Artists set to win European music copyright battle

BRUSSELS/LONDON, Sept 9 Fri Sep 9, 2011 7:18am EDT

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BRUSSELS/LONDON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Musicians are likely to win longer copyright protection of their work in Europe next week, helping artists and record labels as music revenues decline, and bringing Europe closer into line with the United States.

Artists including Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard have led a years-long campaign to extend music copyright in Europe, as they faced the expiry of the 50-year copyright protection term in their own lifetime.

A European Union official who asked not to be named said on Friday: "Although some countries are opposed, it seems likely an extension of copyright protection to 70 from 50 years will be agreed."

Ministers from EU countries are due to vote on the issue in Brussels on Monday.

The move would provide some extra royalties for record labels including Universal , Sony Music Entertainment , Warner Music Group and EMI -- which may soon be sold or listed by owner Citigroup .

Global recorded music sales fell 9 percent last year to $15.9 billion as rampant piracy cut into major markets, with 19 of every 20 music tracks downloaded from the Internet illegal, according to industry trade body the IFPI.

The IFPI's Chief Executive Frances Moore said on Friday: "Extending the term of protection to 70 years would narrow the gap between Europe and its international partners and improve the conditions for investment in new talent."

U.S. music copyright lasts for 95 years after recording, while authors of written works and their estates keep the rights to their works for 70 years after their death.

Music companies' back catalogues of older music have increased in value as distribution over the Internet makes them more accessible. Older fans are also more likely to pay for digital music than teenagers.

But music analyst Mark Mulligan told Reuters the music industry would do better to focus its energies on meeting the new challenges of the digital age.

"How wise is it to have invested so much effort into trying to defend the historical assets of the music industry, when the disruption that's being driven by technological chance really demands attention?" he asked.

"There is a risk with much focus and lobbying efforts on trying to protect what's been done in the past," he said.

(Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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