Musicians lobby EU over copyright vote

Dave Stewart and The Corrs get writing in an attempt to safeguard CD sales

Several musicians are lobbying Euro MEPs in an attempt to stop the free distribution of their material online ahead of a European Parliament ruling Tuesday that could extend copyright protection on the Internet.

Sting, Westlife, Dave Stewart and The Corrs among others, have written to MEPs on behalf of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI). IFPI wants to ensure that intellectual property is protected in the digital age, and claims that artists are harmed by free access to songs and films via the Web. It is concerned that the European Parliament isn't doing enough to protect copyright.

Irish pop group The Corrs, the official spokespersons of the IFPI, played a private concert for European politicians in Strasbourg last October to persuade the European Parliament to introduce stricter online music copyright laws.

Dave Stewart, however, has taken a relaxed view on the issue and recently urged fellow artists to make some of their songs free online.

Members of the European Parliament are about to vote on the EU Copyright Directive, which is designed to extend protection to the Internet and digital television. It will allow organisations such as schools and libraries to duplicate material for public use, but tries to prevent private copying of films and music.

The IFPI is made up of over 30 organisations that represent recording artists, record labels, song writers and film makers.

The vote will take place only a day after song-swapping site Napster failed to overturn an injunction in the US courts. Napster was sued by the recording industry who demanded that it halted the sharing of songs by millions of users without the permission of copyright owners.

It is unclear whether Napster, which recently made a deal with record label Bertelsmann, will have to close down, as it is insisting that it will continue to fight in the courts, and in Congress.

However, some industry figures believe that Napster's chequered past means that its days are numbered. "Napster has had a good run for its money but I don't believe it ever really had a future as long as its roots were so firmly planted in its pirating past. Even if it were released as a legal subscription-based product there are nearly two years worth of unpaid royalties that someone, somewhere is taking into account," said Paul Myers, chief executive officer of Wippit.

Wippit, like Napster, is a peer-to-peer file-sharing service. However, it promises to pay royalties to record labels and artists, which it will pay for by carrying advertising.

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There are many compelling reasons for protecting the rights of artists and their distributors online. Andreas Pfeiffer thinks that it is less clear, however, whether content providers busy with digital rights management have given sufficient consideration to possible side effects. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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