RIAA versus those damned European commies

European Copyrights Expiring on Recordings From 1950's

[...] Already reeling from a stagnant economy and the illegal but widespread downloading of copyrighted music from the Internet, the recording companies will now face a perfectly legal influx of European recordings of popular works.

Copyright protection lasts only 50 years in European Union countries, compared with 95 years in the United States, even if the recordings were originally made and released in America. So recordings made in the early- to mid-1950's - by figures like Maria Callas, Elvis Presley and Ella Fitzgerald - are entering the public domain in Europe, opening the way for any European recording company to release albums that had been owned exclusively by particular labels.

Although the distribution of such albums would be limited to Europe in theory, record-store chains and specialty outlets in the United States routinely stock foreign imports.

[...] ``The import of those products would be an act of piracy,'' said Neil Turkewitz, the executive vice president international of the Recording Industry Association of America, which has strongly advocated for copyright protections. ``The industry is regretful that these absolutely piratical products are being released.''

The industry association is trying to persuade European Union countries to extend copyright terms. Meanwhile, Mr. Turkewitz said, ``we will try to get these products blocked,'' arguing that customs agents ``have the authority to seize these European recordings even in the absence of an injunction brought by the copyright owners.'' [...]

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16 Responses:

  1. ch says:

    An import could actually cost less. Cool.

  2. netik says:

    Is "Piraticial" a word, even?

    It's odd that something can be public domain in one country and not in another. That's just -wrong-.

    • jwz says:

      I'm going to write a strongly-worded letter to the President of Earth asking that he clear up this mess ASAP.

      • thesliver says:

        Nothing to do with him/her, this is a purely commercial consideration and is excluded from anything the President of Earth has to do. See here. Though you could always plead it with one of the World Ombudmus.

    • slithytove says:

      'Piratical' is definitely a word.

      I don't see why it's surprising that intellectual property laws vary from country to country. Many laws do. It surprises me more that there's any cooperation at all between countries, that we don't live in a constant Hobbsian 'war of all against all'.

      That having been said... the length of time that copyright lasts is entirely arbitrary. It's supposed to encourage production of art and literature, but how much protection is sufficient for that, who the heck knows. So it falls into the realm of pure self-interest politics.

      • waider says:

        People like the RIAA and the MPAA have been leaning heavily, via WIPO, on whoever they can in order to get uniformity in copyright law. The EUCD (european union copyright directive) was more-or-less the outcome of this pressure, but I'm kinda glossing over a lot of detail. The EUCD has been put on hold, temporarily, and only two countries implemented it before the original deadline. Irish Law (which is the only one I can really speak for) has DMCA-like anti-defeat provisions which, as analysed by a speaker at a Copyright Association of Ireland event, are actually more restrictive than the DMCA. Alas, the paper he presented is missing from the site (as is the entire Past Events section it was contained in) so I can't recall the rest of what he put in there. Ireland has strong interests in kowtowing to whatever trade restrictions are required by the US in order that the likes of Microsoft and Intel will prop up our claim to be the e-Hub of Europe (or some such nonsense), so I have no doubt that any attempt by an Irish company to produce such an out-of-copyright "piratical" work will be met with swift punishment.

      • Hey, I don't like being lumped with those evil bastards who don't realize that "limited time" means forever! We didn't terrorize the seas for years to get that kind of association!

  3. baconmonkey says:

    The RIAA is a protection racket, plain and simple.

    but does this mean that downloading elvis songs from european servers is legal?

  4. ralesk says:

       I don't see much sense in copyrighting things for "way too long".  Like, Elvis is dead for God knows how long now, what is his benefit of a copyright of 95 years compared to the copyright of 50 years?  Same goes for most dead people and their inventions or productions out there.
       RIAA's behaviour reminds me of G.W.Bush's latest spark, persuading, "suggesting" the EU to immediately start the negotiations with Turkey.  Excuse me?

    • mhat says:

      I can see two reasons for greedy people wanting longer copyright periods.

      1. Format/Media changes. Every time a new format comes along (Record->8Track->Cassette->CD) the copyright owner has the option of releasing a work on the new format giving them the chance to sell you the same product over again. In many cases at virtually no extra cost to themselves.

      2. Retro / Mixing / Covering. Some music refuses to die. Either the original songs get replayed years later and become popular again, or some new pop band does a cover of some classic tune, or even a DJ comes along and mixes in parts of a old song. The copyright owner can make more money off of any of those cases (I think). So the longer they keep the copyright, the more chances they will have to make money.

      • jwz says:

        Don't you people understand that the function of government is to protect existing profit models of the large corporations who fund government?

        It's really quite simple.

        • thesliver says:

          Its ironic though that until the 60's (I think) the US gave no protection for copyright for anything outside the US, which is how so many cheap editions of books were produced there without the original authors receiving a bent copper piece.

        • nrr says:

          No, the large corporations are already protected: they are government.

          Look folks, we no longer live in a republic or a democracy; we're a dictatorship controlled by corporations, where the proletarian populace has no real voice about what is being done. Heh. In saying that, I predict that the US will tear itself apart again soon like it did long ago...

          But, you can always remember this: you can hack anything you want with just TECO and DDT.

    • waider says:

      Hmm, the Turkey thing's a bit old, no? Or has ol' Dubya started banging that gong again? Here's an "amusing" little page I found on the subject of who's violated what UN resolutions (haven't heard that mentioned, mind, since "Weapons of Mass Destruction" became the phrase that pays):


      You'll note Turkey features strongly, as does some other country in the region that I'm not going to mention (except to say that they get $3bn a year in US aid, and who how much from us Euros).