EU assembly backs 70-year copyright for musicians

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Parliament voted on Thursday in favor of extending copyright on music recordings in the European Union to 70 years from 50 at present, diluting a draft law in a bid to reach a final deal.

The measure, if it becomes law, will ensure for example that recordings of the early Beatles hit “Love Me Do” do not become copyright-free from 2012.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy had proposed prolonging performance copyright for singers and musicians to 95 years but many EU states, which have joint say with parliament, felt this was too long.

Parliament voted 377 in favor of 70 years, with 178 against and 37 abstentions.

Brian Crowley, the Irish lawmaker steering the measure through parliament, said earlier this week he was confident that a vote in favor of 70 years would win over enough EU states for final adoption.

Negotiations among EU governments begin straight away in an attempt to reach a final deal.

Irish rock band U2 and British singer Cliff Richard have called for longer copyright protection, arguing that European artists should be put on a more equal copyright footing with those from the United States.

Under the law, a fund dedicated to session musicians would be set up and receive at least once a year 20 percent of the revenue gains from the copyright extension.

McCreevy, who has the power to withdraw his proposal, accepted the copyright prolongation to 70 years in his draft law.

“Talking to performers, not the superstars, made me realize

that something needed to be done. Therefore, I am especially pleased to note that the session players’ fund has come through the legislative process intact,” McCreevy said in a statement.

The Green party said the measure would simply boost the coffers of big record companies.

“Parliament’s vote will be music to the ears of the big record companies and top-earning artists,” said Eva Lichtenberger, an Austrian member of the party.

“If the legislation was truly about helping artists and consumers, MEPs would have agreed to give 100 percent of its benefits to performers and not just 20 percent,” Lichtenberger said.

Editing by Dale Hudson