March 30, 2009 | By Danny O'Brien

Every Vote Counts: the EU Copyright Term Extension Battle Heats Up

The recording industry has been stridently preparing for victory in their battle to double the term of sound copyright in the EU. But their campaign has hit an unexpected hitch -- individual governments among the EU member states think their demands overstep the mark.

The Committee of Permanent Representatives, or COREPER, is a closed meeting of senior officials from European Union member countries. Part of its job is to negotiate a consensus before votes are taken by senior politicians from each state at the Council of Ministers (the Council of Ministers is the voice of the national state at the EU; it shares power with the EU's own executive, the Commission, and the European Parliament).

The last COREPER meeting showed that for copyright term extension, there is no such consensus. According to reports, at least eleven countries' representatives voted against the proposal to extend sound copyright in the EU. That's enough to block the Copyright Term Extension Directive in the Council of Ministers.

The music industry is outraged. In the face of widespread economic and political opposition, they've successfully bulldozed copyright extension past the Commission and European Parliament to get this far. Lack of a clear majority at this stage demands they indulge in an unseemly scramble across Europe for the support of individual governments.

Oddly, their fury at the vote was primarily reserved for the UK government. The UK has been broadly supportive (against its own expert advice) for a 70 year extension, but finally balked at the 95 year period proposed by the European Commission. It was also uncomfortable with the ongoing attempts by industry lobbyists to kill a connected retirement fund for future musicians. UK music groups are now pressuring on the UK "to match its supportive rhetoric with concrete action, by moving heaven and earth to reach an agreement."

But the recording industry will need to move more than just heaven, earth, and the British. Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Netherlands, Finland, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania all voted the proposal down -- and at least one of those countries will have to change its mind for the directive to continue.

If you're a European citizen, now is the time to call on your national government's department responsible for IP policy (you can find a contact list here) to encourage it to join the opposition against term extension or steady its current no vote in the Council of Ministers. You can also follow the Sound Copyright guide to lobbying your MEP. If the directive overcomes this latest hurdle, only a vote in the European Parliament will stop it from becoming EU law.


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