HL Deb 13 July 1995 vol 565 cc113-4WA
Baroness Jeger

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking in response to the European Community proposal to extend copyright after an author's death from 50 to 70 years applicable retrospectively, and what effect they consider this will have on the price of books presently out of copyright.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie)

Directive 93/98/EEC, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers in October 1993, requires the duration of copyright in the United Kingdom be increased from 50 years to 70 years after death of the author, and that certain works on which copyright has ceased will have their copyright revived for up to 20 years. The directive provides that publication of works prior to revival of copyright will not be regarded as infringement. Moreover, member states are able to introduce safeguards to protect those who are in the process of publishing works on the assumption that they are in the public domain. The directive will only be of practical significance for books which remain popular for more than 50 years after their author's deaths. Books whose authors have been dead for more than 70 years will not be affected.

This directive will be implemented by means of secondary legislation made under powers conferred by the European Communities Act (1972), and amending the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to the extent necessary to comply with the directive. The legislation will require approval by both Houses. My department has recently circulated a consultative draft of legislation to implement the directive. This draft proposes extensive safeguards which will reduce the impact of the legislation, for example, by allowing publishers to market stocks produced prior to revival of copyright without liability to owners of revived rights.

As part of this consultation exercise, views as to costs or benefits of the directive are being sought from businesses and others directly affected, and a compliance cost assessment will be produced in due course. I understand that copyright royalty payments for books are a relatively small part of the manufacturer's price and will have only a marginal impact on the price of books presently out of copyright.