Copyright change benefits everyone except artists: Bragg

British singer Billy Bragg has blasted a proposed European Union law to extend music copyright for 95 years, saying it would give a huge windfall to major record labels.

Billy Bragg: "I would still be getting eight per cent

STRASBOURG, France — British singer Billy Bragg has blasted a proposed European Union law to extend music copyright for 95 years, saying it would give a huge windfall to major record labels.

The European Parliament will vote Thursday on extending royalties for performers beyond the current 50-year limit, which would bring the EU in line with the U.S.

EU governments must approve the rules before they become final.

Bragg said Wednesday he didn’t oppose longer copyrights but the EU plan “simply perpetuates recording contracts that were signed in the last 50 years,” taking no account of the way the Internet is changing the recording industry.

He said these contracts gave artists a cut of between eight to 15 per cent of the wholesale price of a record, which reflected the high costs — up to 65 per cent — that labels paid to physically make and transport records.

“Now that they no longer have to do that, that money will go straight into their bottom line,” he said.

“This legislation offers the multinational record corporations a potential windfall of the size of the invention of the CD” when fans bought a second copy of albums they already owned on vinyl or cassette.

Instead, he called on EU lawmakers to vote for a Green Party amendment that would, after the initial 50 years, grant copyright to a national collecting society to share among artists and performers.

The EU rules would not change copyright protection for most European composers and lyricists, who currently receive lifetime copyright protection that is passed on to their descendants for another 70 years.

Bragg said he supported an EU proposal to give session musicians a cut of the royalties, but said current contracts could see them receive far more than the main artists.

“I would still be getting eight per cent, someone who played trumpet on my record on one track would be getting 20 per cent and the record company will be getting the rest,” he told reporters.

Bragg said copyright laws needed to focus on commercial use instead of cracking down on file sharers swapping music with friends or kids using a song in a school play.

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