Musicians are likely to secure longer copyright protection of their work in Europe next week, helping artists and record labels as music revenues decline and bringing Europe closer into line with the United States.
Artists including Paul McCartney and Cliff Richard have been leading for years campaign to extend music copyright in Europe, as they faced the expiry of the current 50-year copyright protection term within their own lifetimes.
A European Union official who asked not to be named said on Friday: "Although some countries are opposed, it seems likely an extension of copyright protection to 70 from 50 years will be agreed."
Ministers from EU countries are due to vote on the issue in Brussels on Monday.
The move would provide some extra royalties for record labels including Universal, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI – which may soon be sold or listed by owner Citigroup .
Global recorded music sales fell 9% last year to $15.9 billion (€11.5 billion) as rampant piracy cut into major markets, with 19 of every 20 music tracks downloaded from the Internet illegally, according to industry trade body the IFPI.
The IFPI's chief executive, Frances Moore, said on Friday: "Extending the term of protection to 70 years would narrow the gap between Europe and its international partners and improve the conditions for investment in new talent."
US music copyright lasts for 95 years after recording, while authors of written works and their estates keep the rights to their works for 70 years after their death.
Music companies' back catalogues of older music have increased in value as distribution over the Internet makes them more accessible. Older fans are also more likely to pay for digital music than teenagers.
But music analyst Mark Mulligan said the music industry would do better to focus its energies on meeting the new challenges of the digital age.
"How wise is it to have invested so much effort into trying to defend the historical assets of the music industry, when the disruption that's being driven by technological chance really demands attention?" he asked.
"There is a risk with much focus and lobbying efforts on trying to protect what's been done in the past," he said.
EURACTIV with Reuters
Monique Goyens, director-general of the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC), commented: "EU consumers will have to wait 20 years more than previously for recordings to enter the public domain. This decision serves a select few famous older artists and will prompt more and higher licence fees for buyers. It further fossilises European copyright law."
"The extension ignores the needs of creative artists and buyers on the modern online music market. Artists of course need fair protection and remuneration, but lengthening copyright terms simply stunts innovation. This will serve to line the pockets of Europe's major record companies and producers, but not the average performer who constitute 80% of the sector," Goyens added.
Music copyright should enter the public domain 50 years after a recording was originally made. In 2008 the European Commission adopted a proposal to extend copyright terms to 95 years.
In 2009 significant moves were made at a European level when former EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy and the European Parliament began backing an extension to 70 years.
- European Commission:Term of copyright protection