Tuesday 14 July 2015

Performers and the 20% Fund: it's all gone a bit quiet

"Musicians benefit from extended copyright term for sound recordings" was the grand and exciting title of a media release by the UK government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Intellectual Property Office back in 2013 which read as follows:
Recorded performers will benefit from an extended length of copyright term for sound recordings and performers rights in sound recordings 
New rules introduced today (1 November 2013) will see recorded performers and musicians benefit from an extended length of copyright term for sound recordings and performers’ rights in sound recordings - increasing from 50 to 70 years.

The Copyright and Duration of Rights in Performances Regulations 2013 implement EU directive 2011/77/EU into UK law. Recorded performers and musicians will also benefit, after 50 years following publication of the sound recording, from some additional novel and innovative measures including:
  • a ‘session fund’ paying many performers (such as session musicians) 20% of revenues from sales of their recordings [the '20% Fund']
  • a ‘clean slate’ provision, whereby a producer may not make deductions from payments to performers (such as advances of royalties) from publication of a recording
  • a ‘use it or lose it’ clause - which allows performers and musicians to claim back their performance rights in sound recordings if they are not being commercially exploited
The Minister for Intellectual Property, Lord Younger, said:
The new rules bring lasting benefits for our world class recording artists. These changes demonstrate the government’s ongoing commitment to, and support for, our creative industries - who are worth billions to our economy.

Artists who performed on sound recordings will benefit from this extension of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years. The changes should help ensure that musicians are rewarded for their creativity and hard work throughout their careers.
Jo Dipple, Chief Executive, UK Music said:
UK Music welcomes today’s announcement on extending the term of copyright for sound recordings. We are pleased that the government is implementing changes that acknowledge the importance of copyright to performers and record companies. This change will mean creators can rightfully continue to make a living from their intellectual property and works.
The directive also harmonises the length of copyright term for co-written works. The directive was approved by EU member states in September 2011 and the UK government has implemented the directive on time.
This blog has received an email from a concerned reader -- indeed a performer -- who reminds him that the task of administering UK performers' revenue arising from the copyright term extensions lies with the PPL (motto: "Standing Up For Music Rights") and that the first due date for the payment of monies by copyright owners to PPL for distribution to the Fund's beneficiaries --30 June 2015 -- has now passed. But there seem to be no details as to how the 20% Fund is to be administered and how monies are presumably to be collected from elsewhere in the European Union. PPL's own FAQs on copyright term extension don't run to that level of detail.

Musicians -- and particularly those who are not spring chickens -- are hoping to learn a bit more about the 20% Fund actually works. After all, where the performer of a work was 50 years old when the recording was made, his extra income will kick in when he is 100 years old. It might be helpful for him, though, if he could do his estate planning while he was still alive ...

The long and the short of it is that, if information is not available, it should be -- and if it is available, it isn't percolating through to musicians and other performers. If any readers can shed light on the situation, this blog and some of its elder and more venerable readers will be thrilled.

Additionally, non-UK readers may be able to share with us their own experiences as to how funds are collected and distributed in other EU Member States, which will have had to implement the same copyright extensions.

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