[...] 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only 50 years in European Union countries, compared with 95 years in the United States, even if the recordings were originally made and released in America.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." [...]
European Copyrights Expiring on Recordings From 1950's
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