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November 27, 2006
No "Sergeant Pepper" Law in the UK?
Ars Technica is blurbing a BBC story that pre-leaks some results from the UK's Gowers Review. This review is actually a commission set up to suggest reforms to the UK's Intellectual Property laws. One of the big issues before the review is the length of copyrights for sound recordings. Currently that's 50 years, but there have been pushes for longer terms such as 95 years or life-plus-70.
The pushes have come from big names, including the U2's Bono and the British Library, but if the leak is true then it appears Gowers will reject these proposals. What that would mean is that the first of the Beatles' music would enter the public domain in the UK in 2012 or thereabouts. It would not be public domain in the US because of recent term extensions here (the so-called Mickey Mouse law) and part of the push on UK laws has been to "harmonize" them with the US laws.
As Nate Anderson points out in the Ars piece, "harmonization" has been a remarkably one-way process in the past, with the nod always going to the more restrictive set of rules. Thus, Bono et al might have been hoping for a Parliamentary Sgt Pepper act to extend ther monopolies. They may get it anyway, since Gowers is a recommending body, not a legislating one. Or maybe the public domain will win one.
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